In a salute to the veterans of the American military who served in modern wars I feel a duty to divulge a few of their testimonies about what our men and women who served actually had to go through. I met them in every walk of life, in business, through family, and even in response to some of my newspaper articles. Their experiences always left me humbled and with due respect for the sacrifice they had made for all of us and the memories they will always be forced to live with. In a world that is obsessed with nothing but frivolity and pretension it is nice to know just who stood up for future generations of Americans so that all of us would be safe and live on to enjoy the freedom so many unpatriotic Americans now take for granted!
No one to come home to
Jesse was a carpenter that I worked with on construction sites who I occasionally sweated alongside with as we layed down concrete forms as one of the first jobs I ever held in my first marriage. He served in World War II and told me his bride who was supposed to be waiting faithfully for him instead met another man while he was fighting for his country. After a profane remark he made about her he did admit that loneliness did strange things to women that they simply could not cope with and dismissed much more than simply the price he paid as an infantryman. He was also proudly independent and would not give in to any man nor would he accept a hand out. He drove his Chevy pickup truck with pride as a matter of fact, the same model, make, and year as the one driven over a cliff by Bill Murray in the movie "Ground Hog Day".
Tom was a maintenance supervisor at a prominent country club I did business with as a small business owner for years. It was part of the PGA Tour in Dallas located in Irving, Texas. I knew him well for many years and even gave him advice on herbal supplements for his health. One day he cried right in front of me remembering how he and his buddies who were paratroopers were dropped over Corregidor at about 300 feet over the deck. He told me his shoulder was separated as soon as he was ejected from the C-47 as they flew over the Japanese occupied island where Mac Arthur's forces had surrendered in 1942. What made him cry was the Japs exploding the underground tunnels that Americans had taken shelter in during the Japanese invasion. Many US troops were killed as the underground bunkers were detonated and the ground collapsed beneath the Army soldier's feet and they too were killed. Tom relived it right in front of me like it had just happened a few days before.
The shady side
I talked to 2 veterans of Vietnam now stateside and addicted to downers or whatever they could shoot up into their veins! They had been stationed at the DMZ and were accustomed in the middle of the war to be able to grow their hair long, tan in the sun off the beach, and enjoyed access to drugs. Once their new commanding officer was assigned and said he would be cleaning up the narcotics problem they set him up with a Vietnamese hooker. They set explosives at both sides of the barracks where their commanding officer was engaged in his discreet mission with the prostitute and blew the whole place up killing their CO rather than being forced to straighten up.
This was not just one example of Vietnam veterans I met. Another one saw action in the northern sector and his dreams were so vivid that he woke up in a sweat after the wild James Bond like exploits that his unconscious state took him to. In one dream, he tried to keep the VC from blowing up a bridge and as he fought hand to hand he knocked one "Gook" down on the ground and a blazing line of gunpowder burning its way to the explosives cut right through his arm severing it in two when he fell across the line of the incendiary ignition source! Each time he relived missions he had participated in or imagined new ones he awoke shaken up, but he had come to realize that once being a rebellious Hippy he had come to appreciate that free enterprise and capitalism was the way to go. He had adopted a new direction in his life seeking normalcy.
It's never over!
A contractor whom I had hired for some remodeling work on a house I had bought next to a lake and was now making plans with my third wife over had a carpenter that I worked closely with. He had also served in Vietnam and as a result of his wounds and PTSD was undergoing bizarre experiences when sleeping in bed with his wife. Some 33 years after his tour of duty there he would wake up in the middle of the night reliving battles where he crawled all over the bed radioing for reinforcements because "Charlie was over the wire!" The man was forced to take several medications in order just to cope and continue making a living. He was a little guy wearing glasses, wore a goatee, and had a deep tan.
Too old to fight too young not to
My Grandfather on my Dad's side fought in 2 wars. He served as an infantryman in World War I and after 20 years in the US Army became a senior Captain. In 1941 at age 40 World War II broke out and he applied for immediate deployment but was told due to his age and officer commission he would never see front line duty again! He promptly quit the US Army, signed up for the US Marines, had to start all over again from Private First Class and go to boot camp among 18 year old guys at his age of 40 and he was then inducted becoming a tank commander in the South Pacific. During an island hopping amphibious landing the turret of his Sherman tank was blown off by an enemy anti-tank weapon, but he survived. My dad told me a photo of his Dad's tank was in a history documentary film.
My uncle Paul who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was plagued with heart problems his whole life, but his wife stuck with him faithfully the whole time. He attributed his heart disease to the stress of being assigned "Point Man" when on the patrol for months because his superior officer hated him. This is a position that as a formation of a platoon or company strength unit moves forward into enemy held territory will actually draw fire so that none of the other soldiers is hit and so they can identify where the incoming fire is coming from once every one has taken cover or hit the deck. You might understand just how nerve wracking this could be.
Under impossible odds
Paul was awarded medals of honor, Purple Hearts, and other badges of bravery when he led a boat full of US commandos across the Rhine River into Germany in 1944 as the Nazi's layed down all possible heavy fire with artillery, mortar, and rifles blazing attempting to repel the advancing allies! Paul's mission was to secure a bridge so that US Sherman tanks and half tracks could begin driving over the river before German engineers could blow the bridge! He described the battle as the air being thick with tracer bullets, rifle fire, machine gun rounds, and cannon shells! He couldn't understand how he even survived as he and what few of his courageous buddies were left attained their objective. Uncle Paul was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full ceremonial honors in the late 1990's.
We take for granted our freedoms so easily forgetting just how lucky we are that there are men and women who would pay that ultimate price few of us would dare expose ourselves to. As the world continues to transform into a superficial paradise of Snowflakes, Drama Queens, and spineless social justice clowns still the truth will prevail as well as the courage of those who did not take their nation's liberty for granted. Regardless of the idiocy America is plagued with we owe those who served with honor and our continuing thanks on this hallowed American holiday!