This journalist is long overdue in expressing my appreciation to the staff and our two editors, Michelle Kim and Bryan Fazio, for their unwavering support of "A Veteran's Story." Likewise, the staunchest of unfaltering supporters is our publisher, Pat Cavanaugh. Pat has always been there for me, to encourage, to offer constructive criticism, to educate, to be a confidante, and occasionally suggest that perhaps I should be measured for a straight jacket along with recommendations for a padded cell.
Harriman, TN - 1966: As one of the eager seniors attending Career Day at Harriman High School, Howard Hendrickson gave the Army recruiter an opportunity to bend his ear. Howard stated, "He kept talking about how bad basic training could be so I didn't even think about joining up." Tech School for data processing seemed the better alternative. "I had the training," he said. "But the albatross around my neck was a draft card with a 1A classification. There wasn't a job in East Tennessee to be had."
Visualize growing up in Idaho to become a University of Idaho 'Vandal', then receiving a 2nd Lieutenant's commission from their Air Force ROTC program with high hopes of soaring even higher as a fighter pilot. Then imagine the disappointment when rejected for pilot training due to the damage you caused your own unprotected ears during repeated target practice with a pistol.
According to legend, in the year 1307 the bailiff/agent of the Hapsburg Duke of Austria placed a Hapsburg hat on a pole in the town square of the small village of Altdorf, Switzerland. Once the hat was in position, he demanded anyone walking by to uncover their hats before it. As a local hunter/farmer and his son passed by, the older man refused to obey the decree.
Intelligence school in Denver, CO was thought-provoking, complicated, and opened enigmatic doors I never thought existed. We mastered the art of dissemination; gained knowledge of codes; planned and plotted and analyzed envisioned missions; studied Soviet military equipment to master photographic interpretation; and were privy to a few top secret particulars that are now prehistoric. As Sun Tzu wrote 2,500 years ago in his military masterpiece The Art of War, "Know your enemy better than you know yourself."
"I celebrated my 95th birthday this September," Kathleen said proudly, then crooned in a robust voice, "Sometimes I grew weary and wearier, and life became dreary and drearier, but then I was told, 'you're not getting old, you're just chronologically superior.' And it's nice to be superior in at least one category, don't you think?" Kathleen Eidson, originally in Norwegian, Ejdson, shoulders superiority in the noblest category of all: a superior human being. She is also a United States Marine.
With administrative cauldrons overflowing with entrenched beliefs and colossal egos, politicians and military elites habitually consider military visionaries as nothing more than annoying burrs in expensive saddles. On today's technological battlefields adaptation arrives quicker due to the fast-paced changes in weapons and tactics. But things were quite different after World War One. Hyped as 'the war to end all wars,' the celebrated armistice actually set the stage for a dozen future conflicts, including World War Two. One persistent voice not only predicted the looming battle in the Pacific, but even specified the point in time at an anchorage called ...
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August 7, 2012: Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank, Logar Province in Afghanistan. She remembers a 'thump' followed by the sensation of a big hand picking up her body then squeezing the breath from her lungs. Hurled through the air, her body smashes against a blast wall, called an Alaska Wall by the U.S. Military. A water truck packed with 3,000 lbs. of explosives had just detonated 'inside the wire.' Major Patty "Mama Bear" Justice lies wounded and motionless, another casualty of another suicidal terrorist attack. She is 49 years old.
"Then were there brought unto him little children; that he should put his hands on them and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus, said, 'Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'"
I've been asked many times by readers and friends to relate my military experiences for "A Veteran's Story." Well, perhaps at a later date, but for now I'm delighted and honored to represent and convey the stories of my brothers and sisters. I will grant one personal narrative, a report on the best Veterans Day this old 'Nam vet has ever experienced.
September, 1970: I was finally home after 2½ years in Southeast Asia fighting a war our government had written off before I ever arrived in Vietnam. My skin still reeked of Southeast Asia, a musky scent no soap could lather off, but with enough time finally wore off. My mom and dad and a few relatives welcomed me home at Memphis International Airport and offered hugs and kisses and a few touchy-feely slights of hand to see if all my appendages were still intact. No Purple Hearts; didn't want any.
December, 1923, Atlanta: Jim Butler enters the world in an apartment house at the corner of Memorial Drive and Moreland Avenue. His dad maintained a job during the Great Depression so in Jim's words, "Our family did okay." Tech High School awarded Jim a diploma in the spring of '42. Hired by Rich's Department Store, he listened to the stories of a co-worker who had joined Navy aviation. Rather than be drafted as a ground-pounder, by September Jim had taken and passed his physical and mental tests for pilot training with the U.S. Navy.
This "Veteran's Story" is dedicated to all our veterans, to the men and women still in uniform, and to our fellow countrymen striving to grasp the true cost of freedom. Freedom never has been free, and the cost will be much higher for future generations.
According to Greek mythology, a skilled artist and craftsman, Daedalus, along with his son, Icarus, had become imprisoned on the isle of Crete without hope of escape. Using his substantial intellect, Daedalus used wooden frames, wax, and various sized feathers to fabricate wings. After man's first 'preflight', the two men took to the air, with a stern warning from Daedalus to his son not to fly too high because heat from the sun would melt the wax, nor too low, because sea foam may soak the feathers.
He served as a combat medic in Vietnam, picked up pieces of humanity; desperately struggled to save lives during the critical 60 minutes of the 'Golden Hour' in which the survival rate increased to 95%, and treaded through mine fields to recover the dead and wounded.
From the book "The Tunnels of Cu Chi" by Mangold and Penycate, a quote by highly decorated Army officer Jack Flowers, commander of 'Rat Six', the crack Tunnel Rat unit of the 1st Infantry Division. Jack Flowers personally survived 97 tunnel explorations.
The home city of record for Lance Corporal David Nipper is Atlanta. Perhaps the city of Atlanta was listed for convenience, but my theory is a bit more skeptical. This young marine was unintentionally overlooked due to careless record-keeping or the lack of clerical experience dealing with Georgia's first warrior listed as MIA (Missing in Action) during the war in Southeast Asia.
Arranging an interview quickly turns into something even more exciting when the veteran suggests, "Let's just fire up the old Stearman and fly down to Peach State Aerodrome for lunch at Barnstormer's Grill. Then we can fly back for an interview at my house." Needless to say, nobody had to twist my arm.
The word 'veteran' customarily represents an individual who served in the military. The keyword 'military' customarily represents a fighting alliance like the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines or the Navy. Arguably, two other groups could be classified as veterans: Merchant Mariners and members of the Home Front.
The "Forgotten War" of Korea is also referred to as the war "orphaned by history." The catchphrases 'forgotten' or 'orphaned' may appease intellectuals or the power-players of that era, but for the soldiers who suffered and sacrificed in the hell called Korea their war will never be 'forgotten.' As for being 'orphaned by history', Korean veterans knew from the outset that the diplomatic philosophy of the day guaranteed they would indeed feel orphaned if not blamed for America's first war without a victorious outcome.
Soldiers of color, be it white, black, red, brown or yellow, have one human characteristic in common: we all bleed the same color. The warrior covering your back most likely wears the same color uniform, yet his or her race, creed or color has no relevance on the value of training or their desire to simply do what is right.
Their aphorism, 'Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces' was better known in Vietnam by its acronym 'Dustoff'. These were the medevac choppers. Unarmed and unwavering, the courageous crews of 'Dustoff' missions flew their Hueys into combat zones to bring out the wounded, the dying, and young soldiers covered with rain ponchos. 'Dustoffs' were clearly marked with the Red Cross insignia to signify a mercy flight, yet that distinctive Red Cross also became a prime target for Communist gunners.