Thursday, May 24, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day
Once, when I was a paratrooper, a very conceited young lady told me more people were killed in car crashes than parachute accidents. I remember thinking “Okay, let’s strap 100 lbs of equipment on your fanny and push you out of a C-130 over the Tennessee landscape at night and in high winds. Then come tell me how safe parachuting is.”
          The love-hate affair Americans have with their military is a peculiar one at best. We love it when the military performs uncommon acts of valor, such as the SEAL raid that killed Bin Laden. However, should the least bit of skepticism be cast upon the military, no matter how absurd the claim may be, then its down with the military and out with the bums in it.  For instance in 1982, when U.S. Marines were in Lebanon, newspapers reported that the Corps was using inhumane tactics against PLO terrorists. What this amounted too was when PLO snipers fired on the Marines, the Marines returned the fire with Beehive rounds and Naval gunfire. Sorry folks it wasn’t inhumane, just that the Marines had more resources to fight with.
          Similarly I’ve heard more than one person refer to our men and women in uniform as death merchants. ‘Oh really’ I always think because  if anyone hates war it is the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have to fight, not the folks watching it on TV back home. “Pass the popcorn there bubba. Did you see that airstrike on CNN last night? Pretty cool wasn’t it? I’d be there myself if it didn’t mean giving up bass fishing on Saturdays.”   
            Then we have all the wannabe veterans and armchair patriots. You know the folks who say they served, but didn’t or else support our troops with a fading bumper-sticker. I’ve met more Green Beret/ Special Forces wannabes in bars and at the local surplus store than the entire Navy, Army, Air force, Marines and Coast Guard have combined.  I guess for some people it’s easier to distort the truth than face reality, much less serve their country.
                Returning veterans don’t ask for much except steady employment along with some educational assistance and medical benefits, but all too often our grateful public and government forgets to provide these basic items. For instance unemployment is at an all time high amongst veterans right now; educational assistance is obtainable, but you have to have a job to eat while going to school and VA medical benefits are usually cut first when it comes to reducing the deficit.   
       Speaking first hand, after returning home from the military I applied to the Post Office, Fire Department, Department of Energy, and Tennessee Valley Authority, but it was a Japanese electronics firmed that hired me and all because I was a veteran. My dad, a World War Two and Korean War veteran, just shook his head in disbelief and said: “The Japanese did what the American government should have done.”  Sadly, my story is just one of thousands played out each and everyday across America.
Today, less than one percent of the American population serves in the military. Ours’ is an all volunteer force which means those who don’t want to serve their country don’t have too.  Therefore, it is vitally important to remember those who do serve our country.  Freedom isn’t cheap. It’s bought and paid for in blood and from Bunker Hill to Iraq and Afghanistan the men and women of our armed forces have defended America. So on this Memorial Day, if only for a brief moment, take time to remember those who gave their lives for our country. It is a small gesture, but one that will be greatly appreciated by many veterans.

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