Monday, November 11, 2013
Veterans. We are millions strong. We all have our own unique memories of war. Some of us fought on the frozen and barren hillsides of Korea. Some of us in the sweltering jungles of Vietnam. Many endure the searing heat of an Arab desert or in the heights of Afghanistan, clawing tenuously to hold a mountain pass. An ever-dwindling cadre of "Our Greatest Generation" can still recall the frantic hell of Omaha Beach or winning beachheads inch by inch at Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal.
Yet, we are a brotherhood. We don't march in Veterans Day parades to tout our service but to remember those who didn't come home. No parade, no Veterans Dinner and no campaign medal will ever serve to ease the angst; of fear, despair, pain or loneliness of the war front. As we came home some of us were cheered, some of us were kissed and some of us were kicked and spit upon. It doesn't matter now.
We know the ugliness of war. The portrayal of war on the silver screen leaves us laughing at the portrayal of the glamour of war or unable to watch it when the reality of war comes too close to war's reality. We now leave the portrayal of war heroes to the pretty boys in Hollywood.
We are far too busy fighting with the VA to receive medical treatment for Agent Orange. We are far too busy learning to live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many are occupied with learning how to use artificial limbs. We have problems because our Congress and our Commander in Chief acts far too quickly to send us in harms way, yet far too slowly to assist us in binding up our wounds if we are fortunate enough to return home. Those who didn't make it home are flown into Dover Air Force Base in the dark of night so that America does not have to see the true costs of war. They are then escorted to grave yards across America so that they may achieve their final and honorable rest.
The one consistency in this exclusive "force of millions" is that we understand, while those who haven't served will never understand. Most Americans can never even conceive the degree of fear and loneliness of leaving your family for five or more years of your life; to not have the chance to hug and kiss your children and tuck them in for the night. Most will never understand the brotherhood that is formed when you serve in danger with a team that is, rather than trying to score a touchdown, are trying to keep each other alive.
I'm no longer a "betting man" but I would venture this: If our Commander in Chief were to announce tomorrow that, heretofore we'll use our old men to fight our wars, and spare our young, there would be a million of us who would claw through the old trunk, pull out our old uniforms, hitch up our pants over our beer bellies, and head out to the war front. Those of you who never served will never understand that, but we do....we're Veterans.