Anyone who is around me for any length of time will realize that I am a proud veteran of the United States Army, having served six years of active duty. I served at posts in the United States and I served overseas. Those six years in my young life (enlisted at 18-years-old) shaped the rest of it, up to and including today. My body bears the strain of those years and my mind and soul do too. I possess two honorable discharges (one at the end of my initial service of three years and one at the end of service) which I proudly keep stored for my children and grandchildren.
I served in an era of great difficulty and an unpopular war. It was an era that saw the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and only five years later saw the murder of his brother Robert while on the campaign trail. The era of an attempt of the life of Governor Wallace of Alabama and the murder of one of the great orators of the 20th century, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. That war is a whole other story. Starting out in Southeast Asia and ending with the protests in the streets of our own beloved nation, it was a war that was never really declared. Technically it was a “police action” but for those who served in Southeast Asia it was hell on earth.
Our troops served during those same years at various outposts around the world. These brave and committed young men and women served in Korea, at the 38th parallel to maintain the peace of another war that was really a “police action.” Our troops served across the border from the former Soviet Bloc, facing an army that outnumbered them by possibly as much as ten to one. This cold war lasted from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin wall…and thousands are still there. There is neither time nor space to include all of the places they served, some of them known, but many in security and intelligence services scattered across the globe to every troubles spot, or potential tinderbox of hatred for democracy.
After all these years, thousands are still unaccounted for, and are classified as Missing in Action (MIA) with their remains in jungles, rice paddies, mountains and fields. Their families still long to give them proper burials to show the respect due from a grateful nation. Many of those who have been accounted for are buried in fields of honor in places like Normandy and in a watery grave of places like Pearl Harbor.
The survivors of declared wars returned home with parades, bands and the applause of a grateful nation, and are honored on the national holidays. This is how it should be, but there are thousands who served in these police actions that never did have their proper homecoming. Instead of bands and fanfare at the time of their return home, they were insulted and oft belittled for their service. At times, Hollywood filmmakers put these veterans up to public ridicule, portrayed them as out-of-control baby-killers and rapists at the worst, and at best they portrayed them as psychological failures who could not cope with life. THIS IS SHAMEFUL.
Since September 11, 2001 our brave young men and women have been called on to serve in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. They have continued to maintain the peace in Korea and Europe, and even protected those who could not protect themselves in nations with corrupt leaders and godless dictators. They are the symbol of freedom and the rule of law, giving years to public service in the military, while their high school classmates amass seniority at great jobs, often coming back to a world that doesn’t speak the language of military service. In fact, the hardest accomplishment for me was to learn how to speak and write as a civilian.
The service and sacrifice of these men and women must NEVER be forgotten, and those of us who enjoy liberty (although it seems to be diminishing around us) MUST be a grateful people. NEVER AGAIN should our troops return to the rejection that many of my generation received. When you meet someone who has served this nation, you should shake their hand, salute them and tell them that you are thankful for their service to our nation.
WE THE PEOPLE cannot take their service for granted, nor can we dismiss the sacrifice their families have paid. We MUST take care of them and honor them…the are our sons and daughters…defenders of liberty and keepers of peace. May God bless them and keep them in the Palm of His Hand.