By all means, enjoy this spring day, have a BBQ, and gather with friends and family. Heck, even go to a sale at the store.
But please take a moment to remember the purpose of this day, set aside for those Americans, who having agreed to serve this great nation, gave the last full measure of devotion.
Friend and fellow Moron, Cranky-D left a comment in our post on Stolen Valor:
Here’s my phony vet story. I am in a bar in my home town in Pennsylvania, during my temporary civilian period between enlistments. Some guy starts talking to me about when he was in Vietnam and that he’d been a SEAL. That should have been my first clue right there. Most of the people I’d known in the service who were SOMEBODY SPECIAL felt no need to advertise the fact. Then the guy is telling me about how they sprang ambushes down in the Delta. From a tactical perspective this shit sounds about right.
So I asked him when he’d been in Vietnam. On April 30, 1975 we’d gone on world-wide alert because of the evacuation of Saigon. I was guarding a refueling apron and fuel pumps on the other side of the world in Turkey. Dude told me he’d been in Vietnam in 1976.
I’m reminded of some of my encounters. When I was a recruiter, fairly often some old (well, older than me) guy would tell me he was in the service. Funny how so many of them said they were SEALs or Rangers or Special Forces. I usually didn’t pay much attention. Usually, you can spot the guys “padding their resume” as it were. There was this one time though… this guy told me he was Special Forces. I didn’t call him a liar, but I think I was pretty clear that I had heard this tale before. He finished his drink and left. Come the next day, here comes this same eguy again. Steelworker. Been in the mills I don’t know how long. Asks me to step outside. I didn’t know what his problem was, but I said sure. He walked to his car and opened the trunk. That got me a little nervous, who knows what’s in there. He reached in and pulled out…. The Distinguished Service Cross. With the citation. He had indeed been awarded the medal, had indeed been a Special Forces soldier in Vietnam.
I aplogized profusely. But I learned a lesson. There are a hell of a lot of people out there that are heroes on the battlefield who come home and just go about their lives. This man, “Pickle” still took the time every year until he died to visit Ft. Bragg and see the Hmong tribesmen who he had served with in the Highlands. Hell of a guy, and I’m glad he forgave me being such an ass.
One other story didn’t have such a happy ending. I knew a fellow who was always on the edge of destitution. Sometimes he had an apartment, sometimes he bounced from place to place. He told me he had flown A-6 Intruders during the Vietnam war. He blamed his problems on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Said the missions he flew were that bad. Now, maybe flying in Vietnam was that bad. But he picked the wrong guy to tell that tale to. My dad was an A-6 pilot, and ran the training squadron on the East Coast during the late 60’s. I grew up with A-6s and the people who flew and fixed them. It pretty quickly became clear he hadn’t even seen an A-6. I felt bad for the guy. I could tell he was almost certainly a Navy vet of some sort. He knew just enough that I figured that, but for some reason, perhaps in the hopes that I would think more of him than just a failed man, he had to construct this tale. He died of cancer a sad and lonely man.
There’s a lot of young men and women coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been decorated for valor on the battlefield. May God Bless them all.
I stand in awe of the courage and devotion to duty that these young Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines have shown. People often worry about the future of our nation. I cannot. I sleep well at night, not so much because these rough men stand ready to do violence (which they do), but rather that our society still produces them. These are the people that will come home with a strong sense that if their service is to have any meaning, the nation they served must be maintained in greatness. We have seen this in the hundreds of thousands of veterans who returned from Vietnam, scorned by their peers, shunned by many others. And yet they became better educated, better paid, and more satisfied than their contemporaries.
When the magnitude of their selfless service is realized by our nation, many who did not serve remember these lines of William Shakespeare:
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
They will want the respect that they have not earned. They will claim honors that belong to others. They claim the title of “Soldier” to smear the efforts of those who seek to make a better world, rather than make speeches about “injustice”. They will seek benefits and financial gain, paid with the blood of men and women who went in their stead.
These people are beneath contempt. Honor the warrior, honor his service, allow none to poach from the only lasting gift that a nation can bestow on him, the thanks of our grateful nation.