Over the long run of my life it’s been my distinct honor to wear the uniform of my country. That uniform, the American flag, the National Anthem, all are symbols of what many people consider the greatest country on earth…and there’s no disagreement here. Many times, since this country was born in revolution, defeating the-then mightiest army to take the field…the British, and we did that twice because it had to be done.
We were almost dragged into World War 1, and we did ourselves proud and, again, with our allies, we defeated another mighty army…the Germans…and we did THAT twice also. World War 2 was, probably the last “organized” war, and it gave birth to The Greatest Generation.
Korea, which was my war, although I never saw any combat, was a jumble of who-goes-there and other interesting questions, like why were we there? We were defending the Korean peninsula from being overrun by…the Chinese? It’s my not-so-humble opinion that that the Chinese could have taken all of Korea if they really wanted to. That being said, it’s probably the reason that nobody in the higher echelons ever asks me for advice.
The Vietnam war was different from anything that had been done in the past. It was a war that tested the determination of our country, and divided it as it had never been divided before. At least in the Gulf wars, we had real enemies who ruled their lands with iron fists and we had to dispose of them.
Afghanistan…well, what can one say about that country?
You’re wondering, right about now, why the history lesson, eh? The one constant in all of this, through every war, every skirmish, from Tripoli to Hanoi to Tokyo and Berlin, is that it produces a group of people that go “over there” as boys, young men and young women, and come back with stories they can’t tell and faces that show “the thousand-yard stare”. Those people are veterans.
They come home, some wounded physically, some mentally, and some live out their lives in pain. The veterans that came home from Vietnam were despised. No other group of returning veterans had ever been treated like that before…and I don’t think since then either.
Veterans come in all sizes, shapes, sexes and colors. Some, from World War 2 are dying, so I’m told, at the rate of 1500 a day, and their stories, their exploits, their heroism may never be told. When we did radio shows every Memorial Day, every Veterans Day, Independence Day and on the birthday of each of the armed forces, it was special. Now, with Facebook and the various groups, it’s another place to expound on my theories, or if the truth be known, a place for me to be the “ham that am”.
Recently, on Facebook, somebody put this poem on there. Apparently, it’s by that prolific author, Anonymous, and it’s this,
“You might be a Veteran…
IF YOU EVER
If you ever wore metal on your head,
If you ever did a cruise in the Med.
If you ever had Alice strapped to your back,
If you ever had to “Break Track”.
If you ever had to “Stand up, Hook up Shuffle to the Door”,
If you ever Re-Upped So you could do it some more.
If you ever cooked for a hundred faces,
If you ever served it in outdoor places.
If you ever used the ground as your bed.
If you ever did believe what your Recruiter said.
If you ever drank your coffee from a cup made of steel,
If you ever had a mountain of potatoes to peel.
If you ever rode a buffer while waxing a floor,
If you ever been true to the CORPS.
If you ever was in the air for 12 hours straight,
If you ever made sure they got that crate.
If you ever made sure that all equipment was issued to all,
If you ever made sure everyone stood tall.
If you ever spent time in a strange land,
If you ever march in step with the base band.
If you ever raised a glass to a lost friend,
If you ever spent time in Hell, and would go back again,
If you ever served with America’s Best.
If you ever had to lay a friend to rest.
Parting shot: Folks, that pretty much covers everything that I might have wanted to say, but Anonymous said it so much better. As I’ve remarked, funerals, especially military funerals, are the most heart-rending affairs that it’s ever been my honor and privilege in which to participate. I’ve been IN the honor guard, I’ve driven the guard to the funerals, and when the bugler blows Taps, I cry like a baby. One day it will be me under the flag, the one that’s folded with reverence and given to the surviving members of the family, and the words will be said…”On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to this Country and a grateful Navy.” I always said that my Navy career was a million-dollar experience. I wouldn’t have missed it for a million, and I wouldn’t do it again for a million. Of course, age says something about that, too.
photo credit: Beverly & Pack Taps is played on the bugle in the winter snow at Arlington National Cemetery via photopin (license)