Honoring Veterans

Veterans Day 2013

flagThis Veterans Day marks the 10th Veterans day since we deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Today was the 9th Veterans Day celebration at home.  Today in our little corner of America we stopped for an hour and celebrated Veterans Day.  The Boy Scouts of our Troop posted the Colors and listened to speeches that talked of benefits and thank yous and “welcome home” to a group of Veterans that seem to perpetually get the short end of the stick, our Vietnam Veterans.
The speeches remembered the “Greatest Generation”, the men that stormed the beaches of Normandy and turned the tide of fascism.  They remembered those men and women that took the battle to Korea to stop the aggression of China in Korea.  The Vietnam era veterans were praised for their battles in Southeast Asia as well as the home front.  Then all of the “Middle East” or Southwest Asian veterans of the Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) veterans were recognized for their continued contribution to our Nations freedom.  It was all very nice.
I am not one for all of the “Thank you speeches”.  I appreciate the thought, but at the end of the day, I think that sometimes it gets overly dramatic and because of how our Country treated veterans in the past, it is a make up call in some cases.  I hate to sound that way, but it’s how some of the festivities come across.
Today’s event was nice.  It was a small service dedicated to veterans and that was it.
Our VFW Post handed our poppies today.  I took a minute to talk to the Scouts about them and what they mean.  The wearing of poppies in honor of America’s war dead is traditionally done on Memorial Day, not Veterans Day. The practice of wearing of poppies takes its origin from the poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by John McCrae.  But today was as good a reason as any to pass them out and wear them  I suppose.  The poppies are meant to remember the fallen.  Memorial Day is that day that we remember all of our brave men and women that answered the call and paid the ultimate price for our Country.  Today is Veterans day.  The day that we honor all of the men and women that at one point in their lives said that they would serve.  Whether it was for 4 years, 20 years, or 180 days, these men and women said “I will go”.  Those Veterans make up 1% of the population of our Country.  1 percent of us say we will protect and serve the rest… that’s it… One percent.
As we drove to the ceremony today we passed a man standing on the corner.  He held various signs in protest of our government and what he believes to be the ills of our Nation.  His last sign said something to the effect that OUR Military is a threat to Human life as we know it.  I appreciate this individuals right to stand on any given street corner in America and hold those signs.  5 blocks away stood those great people who continue to give him the right to do so.
I thought it fitting that on this day to pay tribute to good Americans, here stood one man willing to stand up for what he believes, right or wrong, he stood knowing that the folks that paid his Freedom check in full were just blocks away.
I used to hate to see stuff like that.  But now that I may be a bit older and a tad bit wiser, and having served my Country for 21 years to include a couple of tours in Iraq, seeing how other governments treat their people, I am glad to see it.
I don’t have to agree, I just have to appreciate that because of me and my brothers that served, we live in a Country that still has rights.
As much as we like or dislike our Government or the people who run it, we are still Americans and will not give up those rights without a fight.  We will fight abroad or at home, matters not.  We one percent will never let our freedom be replaced by anything.
I often share a story about our flag with the Scouts of our Troop and what it means to me.  It is Veterans day that I aways remember that time and place.
In the middle of Camp Kalsu 18 miles South of Baghdad was a flag pole and on that pole flew an American Flag, night and day, 24 hours a day, every day.  It was a beacon for us.  You see, for 10 miles or so in every direction you could see that flag.  Every day when coming in from patrol, we would set our eyes to that flag.  It was like being back on the play ground in elementary School, the flag was “home base” and when you touched it you yelled “Home” and you were safe.
One morning, like most mornings, the sun was rising over the desert as we were returning from a patrol in our sector.  We were ambushed by a small group that instantly fled.  We reacted to contact and then decided that the best thing to do was to get back to the camp.  We came around a bluff and there she was.. fluttering in the wind.. “Home Base”… Safety.  The sun was behind the Flag and it snapped and popped, waving for us to hurry back.  We stepped on the gas and raced for camp.
When we got back to Kalsu, we assessed the damage, there was none, no one was hurt.  I noticed as a group of soldiers walked over to the flag pole.  They put their hands on it as if to say “I’m home”.  Then they went about their business of recovery from the patrol.
Once my heart stopped beating fast, I took my turn at the flag pole.  I was home and safe.
Today that flag means so much more to me as do those brave men that wear the flag on the blouse of the uniform of our Country. 
Today, I watched as Veterans from 5 of our Nations wars, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf, and Iraqi and Enduring Freedom stood together and saluted that flag.  I could not help but think that in our little corner of America those Veterans had the same feeling as I.  We are home and safe.  After the ceremony today we walked around and without a lot of words shook hands.  With a knowing nod and smile, we know.
Today, my son John celebrated his first veterans day as a Veteran.  My Grandfather, my father, and I all served and today and everyday have the utmost pride in the choice that now a 4th generation of our family has answered his Nations call to serve.  He has joined the fraternity of the 1 percent that keep us “Home and safe”.
Thank you to all that serve or have served.  You know.

Have a Great Scouting Day!
Pictured in this post.  Members of the 105th MP Co. from Buffalo NY.  They were at Camp Kalsu with our Battalion.  Note that the flag is at Half Staff.  The men in the photo were honoring one of the members of the 105th that had just been killed while on patrol.