Veterans Vicissitudes

Memorial Day
Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. | Photo: | Memorial, Veteran, Flag, Statue, Military, War, Tribute,

Some veterans think they're better than others

A veteran friend of mine asked me if I would fly to Chicago to attend a reunion of former members of my old U.S. Army outfit, an elite force which holds a reunion in a different city every year. I told him in no uncertain terms, that I absolutely did not plan to attend.

He said he felt sorry I felt that way.

I explained to him the reasons and asked for understanding, as I suspected he was angry with me for my refusal to attend. Here's how I couched it in an email to him.

The most damming thing about the "Axe Murder" (North of the Korean DMZ in 1976) is how in the hell can a ranking officer be kicked and stomped to death with no enlisted men shielding him and then his body shoved under a truck?"

One enlisted man (U.S. Army) is seen running away from the fight as fast as his legs will take him. I'll bet they won't discuss that at the reunion.

Here are the reasons I wouldn't go to it and understand me, I don't want to anger you. You're my only friend in this world.

1. It's in Chicago. I hate Chicago, even though I've never been there.

2. You spend $3,000, and realize, my wife and I haven't even had a vacation in five years. You go to an expensive hotel near an airport. There, in a room at the top floor, are 32 pot-bellied old guys you've never seen before----they served in the unit in different years than you did----and their wives.

3. After spending $3,000, one of the pot-bellied old guys tells you, "Yeah, but I was in Korea when it was dangerous." (He means you were in Korea when it wasn't dangerous). Then you have to get irritated and get in his face and correct him, and you get mad, and he gets mad at you, and you spent $3,000 for that.

I'm not knocking reunions, but I've never been big on them personally. I never attended my high school reunion. Why would I want to go and visit people most of whom I didn't like to begin with, and see how horrifyingly old they look now, and relive what for me personally was the most painful period of my life (zit pimples and raging hormones with a hard thing in your pants).

If you enjoy reunions, then I'm happy for you. I just don't.

Veterans won't admit it, but there is elitism among veterans like in Rotary Club. World War II vets think they're better than Vietnam vets, and Vietnam vets think they're better than Iraq, and Iraq think they're better and so on.

This will spark anger among veterans who deny they think this way and will say they value all veterans, and some of you out there really do. But let's be honest. My wife's father, a WW II vet, I vividly recall him saying when the Vietnam War Memorial was completed in Washington D.C. in 1982.

He said, "They've got their memorial, maybe now they'll stop belly-aching (complaining)."

At the time there was a lot of talk about exposure to Agent Orange and veterans-related post- traumatic stress syndrome and other veteran problems.

Veterans Day is the 11th month of the 11th day at the 11th hour. The holiday was originally to honor World War I veterans, and even though the last World War I vet is dead, we still celebrate Veterans Day on the anniversary of the end of World War I.

Previous attempts to change the day to a non-World War I day have gone nowhere.


Mary McHugh as she mourns her slain fiancee, Sgt. James Regan, (US Army Ranger killed by an IED explosion in Iraq) at Arlington National Cemetery. Mary moved a thousand mourners to tears with her touching tribute at his funeral. "Jimmy was a hero to many, but he was always very humble. He always sought team success and not personal glory." | Photo: John Moore, Aaron Stipkovich | Memorial, James John Regan, Army, Veteran, Loss,

World War I vets thought they were more important and called it "The Great War," as though there would never be a bigger war. The word "Great" to describe a war is truly bizarre.

I don't want to get in trouble with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or the American Legion, but sometimes as with any club, there are a few ramrods who run it and it tends to reflect their values and beliefs. This is the human nature of any club.

I have never felt myself as a veteran better than anyone else. But I don't feel less either.

I recall the movie PT 109, about how the young John F. Kennedy saved his crew members after their boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. This was a truly awful movie. It portrayed Kennedy as an unalloyed hero, rather than the critically ill son of an influential rich man who used his influence to gain entrance into the war and who may have been dozing at the helm when his boat was hit.

The movie portrayed the Japanese as slant-eyed sneaky gooks.

But the movie contains one moment of brilliance despite itself.

Wounded Warrior Service Dogs
Wounded Warrior Service Dogs

For a Wounded Warrior, the transition from combat back into society as we know it, can be daunting. The hyper vigilance and hyper reactivity to situations, sensations, sounds and smells that kept them alive in the war zone no longer have a place and are generally considered unacceptable. | Photo: Tender Loving Canines | Link |
A great character actor James Gregory (you've never heard of him before), playing a crusty old non-com, is told by a young assistant, "It must be wonderful being an Australian coast watcher (Volunteers who spied on Japanese troop movements from remote South Pacific Islands and reported them to Americans). "Just sitting on that island laying around."

Gregory replies, "Snippy, some men fight the war from the deck of a flattop manning a 50 caliber, others sweat it out from behind a desk filing papers. Evans (the Australian coast watcher) is all alone on that island. If a Japanese patrol spots him----that's how he's going to die----alone. Just remember that."

In other words, the contributions of all veterans are valuable. None could do their job without the other.

I personally thought up a response to a veteran who didn't know what my service entailed and who hinted that he was more of a vet than I in a snide aside remark.

I said, "You may think you're more of a veteran than me, and you may in reality be more of a veteran than me. But just do me one favor. Don't expect me to agree with it."

This Veterans' Day, let's honor the sacrifice of all veterans equally.

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Updated Jul 11, 2018 1:00 AM UTC | More details


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