Veteran’s Day is upon us. It is time to set aside the degrading political rancor and tension of the day to remember those who have gone all in to preserve the right to raise hell, or not in this great country. I stopped in at our local, quite impressive VA outpatient clinic where a staff member reminded me that folks come home from wars one of two ways; in an aluminum shipping casket, or as permanently transformed who cannot unsee what they have seen or un-live what they have lived through. Thankfully, most of us do just fine, but no one ever let’s it all go.
SSgt. Barry Sadler, a Green Beret crossed trained in several combat specialties wrote a number of ballads about the soldier in Vietnam. Not to show preference here, his songs could have been about any war. My father was a Green Beret who talked little about his experiences. The only advice he gave me along these lines was to avoid war because it changes you in ways that are not good or, if you must go, fight like hell and give it every thing you have. He was a lucky one, and died peacefully in bed, still capable of great violence when provoked.
When you have a moment, Google “I’m A Lucky One” by Sgt. Sadler to hear these lyrics set to music.
“I’m going home, my tour is done… I’m going home, I am a lucky one………but I’ve left friends behind me who won’t come home no more…..yes many friends remain forever on that bloody shore”
Although not every veteran was forced into the nuts and bolts of cannon fire and small arms lethality, all were trained to do so when the winds of fortune changed. Frontline fighters and pilots have been tested, of that you may be sure, a test that exacts a toll. Military service in any form teaches you to obey and function in a team environment. At one point in your life, you were disciplined and prepped for the ultimate experience……fighting, and dying.
Yesterday’s visit at our VA Clinic was a heartwarming experience. Old veterans waiting their turns for the services they provide, talking quietly and exchanging smiles and greetings as only folks do who are members of this fraternity. The VA provides support to me, personally, in the form of hearing aids and a small disability pension for my hearing loss that I have hidden for many years. Artillery pieces don’t really care about your ears and bloody noses. The mission goes on.
There will be much written about the significance of Veteran’s Day in the next few days, as it should be. Virtually every one of us either knows a veteran or is one, and their criticality to the success of America cannot be understated. From the standpoint of the politics of the day, my concern is not with the myriad of problems we face so much as it is with the maintenance of a strong, effective and well led military. To reduce it to simple terms, fire superiority prevents wars and wins those we are forced to fight.
Sgt. Sadler, I join you as a lucky one. I came home, better for the experience and life’s lessons, relatively insulated from the demons who rode home with me. There were more than a few at the clinic who still share seat space with their demons. They came home but left their innocence on the battlefield.
Please shake a Veteran’s hand over the next few days, and when you see him wearing a hat proclaiming his status, ask him about it. He will be honored that you cared! At some point, pray for the souls of every veteran who exists as a name carved in granite. They answered the call……
Have a wonderful week.