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Old 05-29-2007
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Brook Brook is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: HMM-363
Posts: 105
Exclamation About Reunions!

This was sent to me by Gene Salter one of my Squadron mates:


Written by a veteran with a heart...........

You might wonder who comes to these affairs, what they do, what they talk about. You see stockbrokers, company presidents, former police chiefs, restaurant owners, teachers, and others who used their GI Bill benefits to continue their educations. You see factory workers, carpenters, farmers, mechanics, etc, who didnít continue in school but were laborís backbone, men with wives of 35 years, men on their third divorce, men in good health, men crippled by age and the lasting effects of major wounds. But each carries some level of mental/emotional baggage. Some have high VA disability ratings, others wonít go to the VA at all.

When they get together the atmosphere of comradeship rolls in like a warm mist. They smile, shake hands firmly and long, slap backs hard, often embrace. They sit and talk about kids, grandkids, retirement, ailments, vacations. And about who has passed on since last time, and who couldnít make it this year. Eventually they talk about the young Vietnamese girl who warned them of the ambush waiting for them, or the time a different ambush took out their best friend, or when the big helicopterís rotor blast knocked over the nearby outhouse and they barely escaped the cloud of unimaginable filth that it blew over the area. Sometimes talk will turn to those they remember the clearest, and miss the most, followed by a little silence. But there is also happy reminiscing of the joys of canned peaches over C-ration pound cake, of showers and clean socks after weeks in the field, of the R&R tour they took.

Sometimes politics will come up. They are mostly conservative, and very disappointed and upset that what they see as the lessons of Viet Nam were not learned by our elected leaders, who have led us into another terribly messy conflict in Iraq. They all agree that those fighting today deserve the best equipment, the best leadership, and not to be hampered by the incredible burden of political considerations that restrict so much of their actions and put their every decision under microscopes far from the awful reality of war. They have little good to say about the media, either from their own war or the war today. A few say we should get out and let things go to hell, most think it has to be fought to a victory or their grandchildren will be fighting jihadists decades from now.

One young woman told me that she loved to come to reunions, because it was the only time she ever saw her father so much at ease, the only time most of the lines on his face would disappear as he laughed and smiled with his friends. I explained that for most combat veterans, they are never really the same again. There is a major part of their lives they cannot really express or share properly, even with their families. There is a loneliness in their lives they can only escape when they are with others who share their war experience. That is the one time they can really relax, fearing no judgment, no misunderstanding from others, and feeling the comfort of being among brothers. Thatís why some come thousands of miles to be there, why those of lesser wealth will still save up all year for the trip, and all consider it time and money very well spent.

There are always some ceremonies, pledging allegiance to the flag, singing songs such as National Anthem or the Marine Hymn. Old spines stand straight, old voices may be hoarse and off-key, but they are not faint. They know the price of service to their nation, they remember the sacrifices of their absent friends, and they experience liberty in a way most people cannot. I wish more of us could feel those feelings, and have the clarity of understanding of what we have and what it cost.

Memorial Day would mean so much more if everyone could understand what lives in the hearts of our combat veterans.


Class 44 1965
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