Guest Post: Veterans Day 2010

 
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Me with Maine clothes Guest post by Wally Amidon, Travelors Rest, South Carolina My eyes are growing a little dimmer and the grey is beginning to streak my hair. My laugh lines are turning to small wrinkles now and time is trying to slow me down some. I have gotten to live in this great country of ours for the past sixty years. I have experienced wars, riots, social turmoil, a presidential assassination, government corruption, the resignations of a vice president and a president and have seen my fellow citizens split by the color of their skin. Our country endured throughout all of that and will continue to be the greatest nation in the world because of those who love her, support her, and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, their lives for her. Growing up in America as a teenager was a lot different than it is today. There was unrest in the streets because of a war raging in the swamps and mountains of a little country called Viet Nam. The future wasn’t bright in those days for all of us who were quickly looking at the age of eighteen. There was a draft in the country at that time and eighteen year olds were some of the first to go. There were some who protested, burned their draft cards, our flag, and ran off to Canada to avoid serving in the military. They were a small minority though. In the mid-sixties there were more young men and women volunteering for military service than were being drafted. The young people of our country were fighting the foreign wars in a far away land, yet they endured. I signed up in 1969. The Viet Nam war was using any available young person to fill the ranks of the military in those days. My buddies and I all signed up giving our lives as a blank check for our country to cash when needed. Some of my buddies were cashed in and never returned from those muddy rice paddies and jungles. The days of our laughter in the things we enjoyed doing together was suddenly torn apart and the laughter was silenced and only a pleasant memory of a day gone by with that friend remains. The thoughts of my friends who never returned still haunt my memories. They were cut down in the prime of their life. Many never got to be old enough to get married and have a family, or experience the American dream of buying and owning their own house, yet they gave their lives so that you who sit here today will be able to enjoy those freedoms. They were just kids ranging in age from seventeen to nineteen. They had the same dreams you have today. They wanted to live free and be able to live a normal life, yet war came and they chose to set those dreams aside, hoping they would return and pick up where they left off. Many were able to return, some did not. Some of those who returned, came home mutilated by the treacheries of war. Body parts were missing and the horrors of war raging in their heads, causing some of them to be traumatized for life, yet they came back and tried to fit into main stream America. When they returned they did not return to a heroes’ welcome as soldiers do today. Wearing a uniform in those days could cause you some problems from those who would spit upon you and call you a “warmonger” or a “baby killer” yet, we wore our uniforms with pride. Mine still hangs in my closet with all the stripes and ribbons I earned in the four years I spent as a forward air controller in the Air Force. I waited my turn in the rotation to go to South East Asia and do my part in the conflict, but that day never came for me. I was never called upon to go, but watched some of my buddies go and then wait for them to return. It is a hard thing to be a teenager, to be a sergeant in the military, and have to watch a friend be buried, while taps is being played on a bugle across the cemetery. The rifles roar to life as they fire a twenty one gun salute as your friend is laid to rest and he is only a few months past his eighteenth birthday. The flag is folded and handed to his sobbing mother as she is being told that the American people thank her for the sacrifice her son has made for his country. I always wondered if the parents heard those words as they watched their sons being buried. There are people today who will not say the words to the “Pledge of Allegiance” to our flag. They stand with a closed mouth not caring that my buddies gave their lives so they could stand there closed mouthed in a free country and not honor the flag my friends died for. There are others who choose not to stand when our National Anthem is played. When I attend a parade and I see the flag coming, I take off my hat, and as a former serviceman, salute that flag as it goes by. I look around me and see others with hats still on their heads and just carrying on as if nothing special was going on before them. If the spirits of my slain buddies could shed a tear I am sure there would be many shed for some of the thankless people we have in our country today. I fly the American flag proudly from a twenty foot pole in front of my house. I look upon the thirteen stripes that represent the original thirteen colonies of our great nation and those who gave what they had to start the progress of freedom for the citizens of this country. The fifty stars represent the states that make up this wonderful union we call America. I look upon my flag and think of what that banner represents. I look at my life, the lives of my buddies, those living and those who made the supreme sacrifice, and wonder if it was worth it all. My heart swells from within me and pride fills my soul as I watch that flag fluttering in the gentle breeze and I say a silent prayer for my fallen comrades and say, “Yes, yes, it was worth it all.” God Bless America!
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I can identify with the brother soldier because, I watched it happen from the perspective of my time in the military during the KOREAN War which is never even mentioned today. Anybody remember that war? It really did occur.
Also, think about the negative, unpublisided ending of the tragic IRAQ war by president Barack Obama. Even though I had opted out of the negative news, I didn't know that the war had ended until a day before it did. Think about the (Mis) treatment and disrespect of the president of so many in the United States of America under the guize of freedom of everything that came from the lives of many.

Lovely essay, Mr. Amidon. Thank you.

Mr. Art Fuller: I hope it will make you feel better about your and your buddies' efforts in Korea that I remember the Korean War. From Pusan to Inchon, from Frozen Chosin to Pork Chop Hill I've read about your war (I was born while it raged), I tried and still try to learn all I can about it. As much as I have learned about it prompts me to borrow from John Wayne this tribute to you and those with whom you served: "You did good, Pilgrim." You and your buddies are not forgotten, Mr. Fuller; in my heart you are remembered warmly.

Happy Veterans Day. I had the privledge of serving with Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven in Dong Ha, S. Viet Nam in 1967. At this time in history, viet nam was HOT. We built, they blew up! I turned 20 years old over there and NEVER did I regret one moment of my deployment. I volunteered to go and the Navy was kink enough to fulfill my request.
I served with honor and pride, and to this day, cherish my purple heart a got from a schrapnel wound. But when I came home just before Christmas of 67, I was suddenly a 20 year old baby killer. I was a personnelman in the Navy and it was my job to keep records, including closing out the records of the SeaBees that were killed in our battalion. And yes, I was one of those that got spit on when I came home. I was in Oxnard, Ca., and dared not wear my uniform except when required on base.
It is so wonderful today to have an old vet welcome me home or have a person thank me for my service. Today, Veterans Day, I wear my Viet Vet Hat with pride and look forward to being thanked for a job I wanted to do and got paid 150.00 a month to do it.

Dear Veterans, My husband Sam and I participated in a Memorial Service in our hometown park today, the 11th month, 11th day, at the 11th hour. Only God knows the effect it had on my Veteran husband and me. Thank you is so little to say for all of you who have kept me free - my Father in WWII, our two brothers-in-law in Korea, my husband and my brother in the Viet Nam war, my nephew in the Iraq war with his Purple Heart and my friends and classmates during Viet Nam. Please accept our sincere appreciation for the sacrifices you and your families made and are still making today. Only God can and will reward you properly.

Very good blog above but still have some veteran org's and associations that still want to judge and control other veterans to see if they are worthy.. The R.I. Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association touched off its Veterans Day Tribute by throwing three (3) Vietnam veterans out of CVMA Chapter 9-1. These Veterans were thrown out because they had the gall to stand up for a brother Vietnam veteran who the R.I. CVMA state rep and the CVMA National president denied membership to because this Viet vet refused to be prospected and judged which is totally against the CVMA rules and regs. Thought the days of judging the Vietnam vet were over but it appears in some Veteran org's it is not. It is groups like the R.I. Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association that gives veteran org's or associations a bad name. These people that shamed and disrespected Vietnam veterans in the R.I. CVMA along with the National CVMA president will be out and about on Veterans Day taking glory for being a veteran. This is what the R.I. CVMA and its national president call Veterans helping Veterans. Again, excellent blog above and thanks for letting this PO'D Nam vet a place to vent.

only one word to you Wally "AMEN"

I am moved by many words said here. I had a draft number above 300 when I turned 18 and was never drafted. Two years later i enlisted and served not in Vietnam but duriing the Vietnam era. I spent my career after being discharged working for the Department of Defense. During most of my career we provided various support to the military. Weapons and materials support of all sorts. I was fortunate enough to be around and work with Vets from Nam to Operation Enduring Freedom. Like the rest of society vets come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and political backgrounds. With these differences come all the problems of society as a whole. The difference that always struck me was the soldiers ability to band together and fight with spirit and ferocity under the American Flag. I always thought the binding glue was love of country and family. That love of country and family drives a person. I salute and honor all who served. Real heros don't beat their chests and sound trumpets to announce their presence only athletes have this affliction.

I was a little to young to remember Viet Nam, being born in 1964. My parents raised MY sister and I to be a proud American and we both served my sister in the Air Force and I in the Army. I tried to raise my son with the same values as my parents raised my sister and I. He is now serving in the US Navy and I see the same pride in his eyes when he puts on that uniform that I had when I use to put on my uniform. Mr. Wally Amidon you are right, kids today just do not know how lucky they have it.

I to spent time across the big pond in the U.S. Navy on Destroyers during the Viet time. I to never heard "thank you" until about 4 years ago. I am really glad to hear from Vets praising other Vets regardless of what branch they served in. Like "Nam Vet" I was snubbed only by Army or Marine Vets because I was in the Navy and not a real Vet. We need to stick together and help those Vets who are taking our place and make sure they are remembered for their service and treated with the respect they deserve. My Son and Daughter-in-law served in the Air Force and my daughter served in the Army and is married to a Medic who is deployed right now in Afganistan.

HAPPY VETERANS DAY to everyone and remember "Liberty is not free" so thank a Vet. If you get a chance to view the "Wall" or even the Moving Wall do it, it is a vey humbling experience.

I am so happy to see all of the responses generated by my original writing. My brother in law and I plus the wives spent Veteran's Day last year in Branson Misourri. Because we were veterans we got multiple discounts everywhere we went. That town really likes us veterans. If you ever have the chance to go there during the week of Veteran's Day you will see a town full of people who love and respect you for your service. Veterans from all over congregate there during this time and it is amazing when you see groups of twenty or more vets who never knew each other before they met here, sitting around and talking with one another and finally being able to laugh with "brothers" again. One guy said, "People never realize what a real vet is. Just because we were in, doesn't mean we are out. We are always part of the team cheering on the younger generation that is serving today and consoling the families of those of us whose time has finally ended on earth. I will never forget that little man saying that. I call him a little man because he was small in stature, not spirit. In that case he was a giant. While in Branson I stopped by a store and was taliking with an older gentleman. He thanked me for my service and told me he also was a veteran and that he was now 86 years old and had served in WWII. I grabbed ahold of him and he smiled as I gave him a bear hug and thanked him for his service. He again thanked me and I started out the door. The manager came by and asked me if I knew who the gentleman was that I was "squeezing to death." I told him I really didn't know. He said, "That little old man is one of the surviving members of Merrill's Marauders. I turned and went back to my new found friend and asked him if he had forgotten to tell me the unit he was in during the war. He smiled and said, "To draw attention to myself for what I did would be selfish. Half of my buddies died in the Pacific campaigns and they are the ones who deserve the credit. I am a survivor because of them and not because of me ." I watched as he looked off into the distance and I saw his eyes redden a bit and he said, "Please excuse me," as he wiped a tear from his eye. I threw my arms around this new found hero of mine and gave him a gentle hug and whispered, "You are a hero to me, sir, and I will never forget you or what you have said here today." He told me, "You are the only person who ever gave me a hug for being a veteran." I replied, "Sir, you are a national treasure and I consider it a privilege just to be in your presence and to be able to tell my sons and their kids that I have actually met you and was able to give you a hug from America. My brother in law and I had our pictures taken with him and he was protesting we were making a big deal over nothing, but we refused to listen to him and just laughed as the shutters clicked away on the cameras.I had to leave then and I always remember looking back and seeing an aged survivor stand straight, look me in the eye, salute me, and say, "See you next time, buddy." I hope there is a next time for both of us.

To Wally Amidon,
A great additionn to this blog, I thank you for your service, and for sharing your story, and thoughts. I too was in during the time frame of Vietnam, I spent a year in Thailand when everything fell, and they evacuated the U.S. Embassy, and Forces, my buddies and I spent a lot of time working on supporting the cause. Learned a lot about myself, and what Freedom really means during that three month period in 1975. I've stoped talking about it a long time ago when someone told me they didn't care.

People who like to cliam "freedom of speech" like it because it really is free and most of them never contributed anything to the cause to keep it free. Thare are a lot of people out there today who "claim" to be Viet vets, I was in during the time frame, but they never let me go. They kept me on a mountain top radar site on the German border (East/West) at the time. Probably to preserve sanity in the rest of the world. I see guys my age and I can see the war in their faces. They don't have to tell me about their experiences over there. It is written in their faces. They don't brag about their exploits and they are kind of quiet if you ask them what they did during their times of service. I was in Walmart one day and I was talking with a man who was wearing a Viet Vet cap. I thanked him for his service to his country and he thanked me for the time I spent. He never said anything about what he did except to say, "I tried to do my best when called upon, and that is all." I got in line and saw him leave after he checked out. As I was leaving I saw him drive away and he waved at me. I froze when I looked at his license plate. It said "Medal of Honor Recipient" on the plate. That man never mentioned that to me. He only said he tried to do his best when called upon." A real hero who wants no recognition for doing his job to the best of his ability. Made me stop and think about life in general and I always have a great outlook on things now. You never know who you are talking with.

Right on my friend! My feelings axactly. Can't keep from getting a tear in my eye when "OldGlory" passes in review.
God Bless. Have a great VETS day.

Jim Van Horn, USCG (Ret)
Ketchikan, Alaska

I have a great respect for race, creed, color, religion and ancestry because of our country. I have a far greater respect for those who chose to serve our country with other veterans; those whom I can freely call "comrade" or "brother." We should all have the highest respect for those who ended up making a personal sacrifice, defending the freedoms of Americans and others. It was 20 years after Viet Nam when someone saw the medal on my hat and thanked me for my service for the first time. Now, every time I meet someone, in or out of uniiform, I thank them for their service, or their obvious sacrifice, for our country and our freedom. I really don't expect those who have not experienced what we have, to react the same way, as those with our personal experience.

Not long ago we laid "Buddy" Hebditch to rest. He had joined the Army in 1939. When he qualified for rifle he fired a perfect score. Not only that, but he did it three times more. With his '03 he competed against riflemen firing M-1's and won. What would you have done in WW-II with someone who was 'perfect'?

Buddy was a gunsmith since he was a child. His mother, who was part Indian, taught him about guns when he was three.

The Air Force was then the Army Air Corps. Buddy spent the entire war fixing 50 Cal. machine guns for them. There were so many that failed that Buddy was indispensible in his armory job in the USA. How many enemy aircraft his handiwork shot down is incalcuble. When you serve, you never know where it will be. Hopefully, it will be where you can do your best for the sake of all.

Some people pay a far higher price for liberty than others.

Welcome Home all veterans past and present !!

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.