Personal Veteran’s Day thoughts.
I’m glad I served. I volunteered for the US Army through Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) before Vietnam. By the time I graduated from college, Vietnam was in full swing and I became part of it.
ROTC was like practicing for a big game. Though young, dumb and inexperienced in life, I welcomed the chance to prove myself.
Best that can be said for me is that I held down my position on the playing field with no big plays and no big fumbles.
Veterans don’t rattle easily.
[private] Faced with tough situations, veterans don’t waste time flapping their hands and lips. They take hold, take or give instructions and get on with the job. Many have seen life and death up close and personal.
Most who have no first hand experience have been mentally prepared to step up since basic training. Depend on them.
It’s good to have a real close friend or a family member who also served. Veterans may not “talk about it” mainly because there is really nothing much to talk about.
Still, it’s good to have somebody close who understands. Somebody to whom you don’t have to explain everything in carefully selected phrases.
For that reason, It’s great to have my daughter, Hannah, former Major in the US Army living next door now. She’s recently retired, back home again with her two dogs waiting for her husband to return from school in Texas where she was last stationed. Hannah completed an assignment in Kosovo before doing two tours in Iraq. She and I can communicate small things with a look that require convoluted explanations for folks who haven’t been.
Daughter Hilary stopped by Big House to hug me on her way back to Princeton. She gives good warm hugs and I miss them when she’s gone a while. Hilary doesn’t have military experience, but she has the sort of self confidence that comes from serving in tough circumstances. She spent three years in Africa, in Peace Corps.
During those years, many folks asked me about Hannah and how it must feel to have my daughter exposed to all those dangers war brings. My standard, heart felt answer was how much more I worried about Hilary alone in Ghana. Hannah was surrounded by best armed and trained soldiers in the world, all of whom would come to her defense instantly. Hilary was on her own, in a country generally quiet, with closest friendly help many miles and hours away.
American soldiers are the greatest cohesive group of people in the world. They are a machine in which every part can think and act alone while all act in unison. There are few greater experiences in life than the realization that you are in command of a body of troops, no matter how large or small.
I didn’t command in Vietnam. I believe my experience there led to my success as Commander of the 351st Ordnance Company in Romney and Martinsburg, West Virgiia. Men of that company knew I’d “seen the varmint” they respected my experience and they worked hard to complete whatever I asked.
I took best care I knew how of them and they took care of our mission. I don’t remember every face and name from those five years commanding. I field a lot of “Remember me?” inquiries. Though I may not know them individually, every one stands out as a member of a fine unit which I’d take to any war anytime with assurance they’d be behind me all the way. No beter working bunch of people ever marched in cadence.
There will always be wars and there will always be veterans of those wars. It’s human nature to compete on the ultimate level for big things in life. Today, I believe it’s more important to fight for freedom to practice religion of our choice rather than a single religion others would impose upon us. Freedom is America’s reason for having Veterans. Veterans are the reason we have freedom.