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November 11, 2003

I'm thinking back to my childhood, in the '60s. Even as young as I was, I knew it wasn't a time when being a soldier was something most people bragged about. Yet in the narthex of our church were displayed portrait photos of the young men of our congregation who had gone off to the military. I remember at least one of those photos with a black border around it -- a young man who would not be returning from Vietnam.

I remember being 8 or 9 years old and going out camping and shooting in the desert with my Dad and a dozen or so of his friends. Dad turned 18 in 1954 -- too young for Korea, too old for Vietnam -- but many of his friends were a few years older than he, and had served in World War Two or in Korea. I remember them as big men, like demigods.

I think of my Dad's friend Dick, who flew a B-29 bomber over Japan, who joked with me one day that in 1945 he had dropped bombs on the Mistubishi factory that made the car he'd just bought in the 1990s.

I remember my friend at the Defense Language Institute, whose friend & squad-mate was killed next to him in Grenada, and who cursed and cried every time he had a few beers too many, but always showed up fit for duty the next morning.

I remember the guy from my high school who graduated a year behind me, who was killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission in Kentucky.

I look at the wall above my fireplace. There hangs a photo of my grandfather, for whom I am named, who served in the artillery in France during the Great War, the "war to end all wars," World War One. I never knew him; he died in 1939 and is buried on the Presidio of San Francisco. I have his old gas mask; I have the flag which draped his coffin. His medals and his helmet are on the wall of my parents' library - some day they will be on my library wall.

I, too, am a veteran. I joined the Army when the outcome of the Cold War was still somewhat in doubt, and by the time I left I had seen the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then of the Soviet Union. Had I not been injured, I would probably still be in uniform today. My service was for the most part unremarkable, certainly not compared to the people I've known. But yes, I'm proud of the small part I played, and would do it all over again.

And nowadays, I see the kids serving in Iraq, in Afghanistan - they are making sacrifices, and making History. I'm proud of them. This nation should be proud of them, and of all who have served and sacrificed.

Posted by Russ at 11:11 AM, November 11, 2003 in Nat'l Security

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Well said. Happy Veterans Day.

Posted by: Jim - Parkway Rest Stop at November 11, 2003 08:53 PM