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The American Veteran

Veteran Picture 1

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

US flag

It is the VETERAN who salutes the Flag:

Veteran Picture 3

And, it is the veteran who served under the Flag:

Veteran Picture 4


An American Soldier

Soldier Picture 1

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.   He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm howizzitor.   He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.   He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.   He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.   He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.

Soldier Picture 2

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.   He is self-sufficient.   He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other.   He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.   He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.   He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.   If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food.   He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.   He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.   He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all.   He has seen more suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime.

Soldier Picture 3

He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.   He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.   He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking.   In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom.   Beardless or not, he is not a boy.   He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

Soldier Picture 4

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.   Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.


A Soldier Died Today

He was getting old and paunchy
and his hair was falling fast
And he sat around the Legion
telling stories of the past,

Of a war that he had fought in
and the deeds that he had done
In his exploits with his buddies;
they were heroes, everyone.

And 'tho sometimes to his neighbors,
his tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened,
for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer,
for old Bob has passed away
And the world's a little poorer,
for a soldier died today.

No he won't be mourned by many,
just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary
very quiet sort of life,

He held a job and raised a family,
quietly going on his way;
And the world won't note his passing;
'tho a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing
and proclaim that they were great,

Papers tell of their life stories
from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier
goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
to the welfare of our land
Some jerk who breaks his promise
and cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
who in times of war and strife
Goes off to serve his Country
and offers up his life?

The politician's stipend
and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate
to the services he gives,

While the ordinary soldier,
who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal,
and perhaps a pension small.

It's so easy to forget them,
for it was so long ago
That our Bob's and Jim's and Johnny's
went to battle, but we know

It was not the politicians,
with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
that our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger
with your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out
with his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a soldier
who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin, and country,
and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier
and his ranks are growing thin
But his presence should remind us,
we may need his like again.

For when countries are in conflict,
then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles
that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage
at the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
in the paper that might say:
OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
FOR A SOLDIER DIED TODAY.


Viet Nam 1966 - Less We Forget Our Viet Nam Veterans

Ann Margaret

This is a story about a Viet Nam vet and Ann Margaret as told by the vet's wife.

Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam other than he had been shot by a sniper.   However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margaret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.

A few years ago, Ann Margaret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore.   Richard wanted to see if he could get her to sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o'clock for the 7:30 signing.

When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot and disappeared behind a parking garage.   Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.

Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GI's so far from home.   Ann Margaret came out looking as beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard's turn.

He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo.   When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it.   Richard said, "I understand.   I just wanted her to see it."

She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, "This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo.   I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for 'my gentlemen.'"

With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him.   She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them.   There weren't too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear.   She then posed for pictures and acted as if he was the only one there.

Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet.   When I asked if he'd like to talk about it, my big strong husband broke down in tears.   "That's the first time anyone ever thanked me for my time in the Army," he said.

That night was a turning point for him.   He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet.   I'll never forget Ann Margaret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.

I now make it a point to say "Thank you" to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces.   Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.


Freedom Isn't Free

            US flag

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin.
Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.


The Mike Christian Story

POW/MIA Flag

From a speech made by Capt. John S. McCain, USN (Ret), who represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate:

As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.   In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell.   In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room.   This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian.   Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama.   He didn't wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old.   At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy.   He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School.   Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967.

Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country-and our military-provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.   As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home.   In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing.   Mike got himself a bamboo needle.   Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance.   I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it.   That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.   Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in.   We cleaned him up as well as we could.

The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept.   Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.   As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could.   After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian.   He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.

He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better.   He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to pledge allegiance to our flag and our country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world.   You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


Our Soldiers Sleeping In Iraq

Soldier Picture 1

Soldier Picture 2

Soldier Picture 3

Soldier Picture 4

And Thinking of Home

Grass

This soldier, stationed in Iraq, asked his wife to send him dirt (U.S. soil), fertilizer and some grass seeds so he can have the sweet aroma and feel the grass grow beneath his feet.  He is cutting the grass with a pair of a scissors.


Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare

USS Lexington

Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lexington in the South Pacific.   One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission.   After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank.   He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.   His flight leader told him to return to the carrier.   Reluctantly he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the carrier, he saw something that turned his blood cold.   A squadron of Japanese bombers were speeding their way toward the American fleet.   The American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was all but defenseless.   He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet.   Nor, could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.   There was only one thing to do.   He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes.   Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another.   Butch weaved in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until finally all his ammunition was spent.   Undaunted, he continued the assault.   He dove at the planes, trying to at least clip off a wing or tail, in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.   He was desperate to do anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.   Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.   Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return.   The film from the camera mounted on his plane told the tale.   It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet.   He had destroyed five enemy bombers.   That was on February 20, 1942, and for that action he became the Navy's first Ace of WWII and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.   A year later he was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29.

His home town would not allow the memory of that heroic action to die.   And today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.   So the next time you're in O'Hare visit his memorial with his statue and Medal of Honor.


Written by Army Captain John Rasmussen

Graveside Flags

It was raining "cats and dogs" and I was late for physical training.   Traffic was backed up at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was moving way too slowly.   I was probably going to be late and I was growing more and more impatient.   The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier's memorial plaque.   My concern at the time, however, was getting past the bottleneck, getting out of the rain and getting to PT on time.

All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic was getting started again, the car in front of me stopped.   A soldier, a private of course, jumped out in the pouring rain and ran over toward the grove.   I couldn't believe it!   This knucklehead was holding up everyone for who knows what kind of prank.   Horns were honking.   I waited to see the butt-chewing that I wanted him to get for making me late.

He was getting soaked to the skin. His BDUs were plastered to his frame.   I watched as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground in the wind and the rain, and set it upright again.   Then, slowly, he came to attention, saluted, ran back to his car, and drove off.

I'll never forget that incident. That soldier, whose name I will never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures.   That simple salute -- that single act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag -- encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me.   It said, "I will never forget.   I will keep the faith.   I will finish the mission.   I am an American soldier."