Veterans: The Angels On Our Shoulders

Photo: Kate Gardiner/Flickr Last month at my son’s wedding, I…

Veterans Day 2009 Chicago Soldier Field
Photo: Kate Gardiner/Flickr

Last month at my son’s wedding, I met a well-dressed older man sitting with his girlfriend. The gentleman, Don, had arrived in a car with a license tag that read “8th AF.” I asked about it and he informed me that he had been a B-17 navigator in 1944 and was lucky enough to complete his quota of missions over the hostile skies of Nazi Germany. In World War II he and other men flew long flights, day after day, mission after mission, at high altitude against the best of the German Luftwaffe, through rarified, freezing air filled with explosions, bullets and blood. He went on to fight in Korea, then fly B-47 bombers armed with nuclear weapons.

Just a few weeks ago, I befriended another easygoing gentleman, Bill, as I reviewed his excellent AR-15 modification. He just happened to mention that he was a pararescueman in Vietnam with many, many flights into enemy airspace and hostile jungle. He said his job was to “get off the helicopter and go looking alone in the bush for the guys that needed me.” Just a week later, I called to find him in the hospital. After talking shop for a little bit, he casually mentioned that he had just been diagnosed with stage-three cancer, likely a result of Agent Orange exposure. He did not complain. It was just another minor obstacle for this warrior.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Recently, after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I saw a sign in Long Beach, Long Island, New York. It boldly stated, “LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT BY A LOCAL VET.” The sign-maker’s home and the homes of others in the neighborhood were being protected by someone who was familiar with going into harm’s way to keep others safe.

These veterans are from different wars and different times, but they each had one thing in common: They lived a life of service at their own risk. Don sat in the nose of his Flying Fort, seeing bullets and shrapnel rip though the paper-thin skin of his bomber and into the bodies of his comrades. Bill penetrated the jungles of North Vietnam alone, looking for pilots who would most certainly die without rescue. The Long Beach vet drew a line in the sand to keep fellow Americans safe. These individuals served their country and learned that doing so is an honor and duty, one they are still proud to perform.

Let’s thank those veterans who kept us safe, during WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, and let’s thank those that still do. We salute and honor all our veterans for their service and for enabling us to live in peace.

Page 2: A message from the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

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  • Hear hear…to all our veterans, men and women, and all their family, friends & strangers who support them and honor them. bill ’68-’72.

  • commander. dr. bob

    A great + herart warming story. Thank you so very much!!! Yes as a former. U. S. M. C. Jr. Office*. Vietnam+ Cambodia* I know first hand the perils. Later on after being injured in a helicopter crash- downed in a C. H 46 with my leg damaged + flesh burned badly , with my lungs partly burned. + right foot well….. It was saved so that gives you a perspective. I also went on to serve agaiin and become a lieutenant Commander + then Commander. U. S. P. H. S.- O. S. G. -D. O. J. Federal” prisons+ with. I. H. S – on indian reservations 12 yrs at Fort Duchesne in northern. Utah 6 yrs.there Then on to U. S Naval* ops *!!+ U S. C. G ****interdiction etc, I am proud to have served this great country. Yes my body is damaged a bit but, we warriors go on. This is our country, it is our honor to defend it from those who would like to do other things to it. Remember in the Rovolutionary War against the British **Patrick Henry stating 200 + yrs ago. ” Give me liberty or give me death” we choose liberty. Thank you all veterans for you homnor, duty, love of your country all generations. With honor I salute you all both men + women. C. D. R. Dr. “Bob” Matthews. P. S: keep your powder dry ,gun barrels clean, eagle eyes open for those things that you may not see but, are ever present to take our liberty from us. Be vigilant ,even minded, steady + well. *** Smper Fidelis***