THE REAL AMERICAN HERO
The title of veteran is a term of great respect due to the patriotism, willingness to serve, and dedication to a larger cause. As the holiday approaches if nothing else Americans should remember the vets who made this country what it is today. I stand in front of a unit’s memorial board here in Iraq. A wall of warriors killed in action. I stare at the many fallen Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, many so young and full of life, determined and brave. I stare at the memorial walls and a silent crowded wall stares back at me holding me accountable to complete the job we were sent here to do. They gave their all. It’s a shame we cant display all of the pictures from all of the battles that show these brave men so people could see who was number 7 and who was number 2001. So people can feel the eyes of men and women looking at them and telling them so much without saying a word.
Their faces wind torn and chapped, uniforms faded from the hot sun, body armor stained with sweat marks, dirt and smoke. Many of them serving multiple tours defending America and freedom, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but places like Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima and Vietnam. Some people don’t support war for whatever reason but I ask all of you to respect the warriors for the person they are, no the American that they are and always will be. For the fact that which ever war they fought in, they fought bravely. Some are gone now. Some never made it home but many are still with us. Some people on that wall may have wondered what would be said about them once they are gone. As on that wall, many names reside on the black Vietnam memorial wall in DC and the many walls, memorials to come which hold words of gratitude and honor, strength, determination and hope.
Of course nice words were said at their funeral, to their survivors. But why not say those same words to them now when they are there to hear them? Why not feel the pride felt when a spouse is handed an American flag at a military funeral every day. Veterans today will be all around you this holiday, male and female and of all ages. The stories and miracles they hold are priceless to the American history, because they wrote it with their souls. Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day in commemoration of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I, is the anniversary of the ending of World War I. In the United States it is celebrated as a federal holiday on 11 November. According to the VA website, the major hostilities ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Veterans Day has been observed annually on this date since 1978, except for a brief period when it was celebrated on the fourth Monday of October. Following World War II, the name of the holiday was changed (enacted 1 June 1954) to Veterans Day to honor those who served in all American wars. The day has since evolved to primarily be a time of honoring living veterans who have served in the military during wartime or peacetime, partially due to competition with Memorial Day, which primarily honors the dead.
The Marine Coprs Birthday is Nov 10th 1775. It has been 230 years of kicking ass and taking names to ensure our fellow Americans and freedom continue to be safe. This has become ever so evident today as it was back on Mount Suribachi when Lt Gen Holland said “‘the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.” I know this will be true because of our country’s outstanding 24.9 million Veterans and their fierce fight within them.
I close with a story
When I was a Platoon Commander and had about 45 Marines under my command we occasionally had a few that had disciplinary problems. That year I got a little creative and instead of prosecuting them under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) the military legal system, I decided to offer them another option that wouldn’t reflect on their records. I directed them along with myself to meet me at 0600 in their USMC Service Alpha uniform (Green Coat & Green pants like worn by Jack Nicholson in the movie “Few Good Men”) in front of the barracks. Not going into details, they took the offer. We drove a quite hot hour to a Veteran’s Hospital. Clinching Marine bumper stickers and posters and American flags we had no agenda. We looked each other over and began our mission, No time limit, no schedule. We went in to the first floor and told them “we are here to make sure people know we are thinking about them”. You want to talk about surprising someone. The nurses immediately took us to see some rough and tuff warriors and told us you must see Gen Richardson. As you entered his conservative room there was a tired warrior with oxygen in his nose, family picture of his grandkids on his nightstand and the Stars & Bars on the wall, orientated correctly. The nurse said “General the Marines are here”. He said “you guys here to get me outa here?” I said yip I got your shoes lets GO. He couldn’t move from his bed but he enjoyed the offer. Along with him and several other gentlemen the Marines sat and mainly listened as warriors from Normandy on through the wars told their story but surprisingly were so interested in the young Marines story and reinforced how proud they were of the young men sitting with them in their impeccable uniforms. I could barley sit there and watch as these gentlemen hooked to all kinds of contraptions had a glow in their face and tried to sit up in their beds to shake young warriors hands. I felt pretty dang humble. One gentleman in a wheel chair dressed in his Sundays best asked one of the Marines, “where does a rusty old Marine find one of those Eagle Globe and Anchor tie clasps”? (these are worn with this type of uniform by Marines). The Marine looked down at his own tie clasp and said you mean like this one, as he clasped it on the gentleman’s tie. The guy just through his arms around the Marine and gave him a big bear hug. Money can’t buy you feelings like that.
All of the Marines that day left the hospital a little different that day. It was a quiet ride back to the base and no one really said anything but everyone was thinking the same thing. We were all very proud to be associated with the gentlemen we just visited with and very appreciative that “they” did what they did for their country. The other 364 days of the year will probably be the same as any other day as the nurse stated “these guys don’t get many visitors”, but that Veterans Day was different for all of us.
As we continue operations here in Iraq I will light up a cigar in your honor and say Thank you veterans and Happy Birthday Marines!
Across the full spectrum of operations, Marines create stability in an unstable world. We continue to do so as Operation Steel Curtain excels with success here in Iraq, especially on our Birthday!