November 11 is Veterans’ Day. It’s a day to honor the memory of those who answered the call of our country to fight and for some — to die. As we veterans of the Vietnam war say, “All gave some, some gave all.” Those of us that are still alive – we small band of veterans – salute and raise our glasses to all brothers and sisters who served, living and dead. I have taken the liberty (editorial license) to re-phrase the St. Crispin’s Day speech from William Shakespeare’s play, Henry V. (My apologies to Bill.) If you haven’t read it, check it out. It will resonate. It’s the speech that Henry V made to the English Army shortly before the Battle of Agincourt on the morning of 25 October 1415. That’s where the term, “band of brothers”, comes from. Here’s my twist on it:
Today is Veterans’ Day. Those of us who came home will stand attention on this day and salute all veterans, living or dead, who answered when their country called. Those who had no stomach for the fight, decided not to answer and stayed home. We didn’t care to die in their company when they valued their lives more than fighting and dying with us. We, who survived, will strip our sleeves and show our scars each year on this day, and say, “These wounds I had in the service of my country.”
Old men may forget; but on this day, we band of brothers and sisters will remember what feats we did. Our fallen comrades will be freshly remembered. With these stories, we’ll teach our sons and daughters. From this day to the ending of the world, as long as we live, we will remember.
We few, we happy few, we are a band of brothers and sisters; for anyone that served with me
is my brother or sister.
(The rest of this article is my tribute to our veterans and not taken from Shakespeare. When I write “brother” I am including sisters too.)
Were you there with me, brother, with muddy boots when we stormed Normandy and started to push back the German Army? Or were you with the 82d Airborne and Patton at the Battle of the Bulge? We liberated Paris. We stood and shook as we saw the survivors of the concentration camps. We saw the ovens and we can still smell the burning flesh. We saw the destruction of the German cities, many centuries old – the victims of war. We forgave but we couldn’t forget. After the war, we helped to rebuild Europe.
Were you there with me, brother, when the Japanese surprised us and bombed Pearl Harbor without a declaration of war? Maybe you were there when Bataan fell and the Japanese bottled us up in the tunnels of Corregidor. We who survived made the Bataan Death March. We fought back at the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal. You walked with me and Mac in muddy boots as we leap-frogged across the South Pacific to push the Japanese back and finally returned to the Philippines
We are so few still living. We were the greatest American generation. Those who survived the war came home and built and rebuilt the United States industries to make the USA the greatest country in the world – a world super power. We made the mold, set the standard and inspired future generations. Soon we will be gone, but never forgotten.
Were you there with me, brother, at Pusan when we stopped the North Koreans and held the perimeter? We held the line to buy time for Mac to organize a counterattack. Or maybe you came ashore at Inchon in an amphibious landing that turned the tide of the war and turned back the communists? Then we watched the massive Chinese intervention into the Korean War and fought a strategic withdraw. We fought at Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak Ridge and Old Baldy. We were the “The Chosen Few” or, as we called ourselves, “The Frozen Chosen.” We have been there ever since to protect the South Koreans.
Were you there with me, brother, when went we to fight in a country we didn’t know, to fight a war we didn’t start and didn’t want? We waded through rice paddies and walked in elephant grass. We were in the Delta when the monsoon struck and soaked us until we looked like drowned rats. We fought at Khe San, in Hue during the Tet Offensive, and on Hamburger Hill. We felt the earth tremble during Arclight strikes by B-52 Stratofortresses, when the artillery answered a call for fire support, and when Hueys airlifted us into battle or for a medevac. We marveled when Spooky – Puff the Magic Dragon – delivered ordinance on Charlie, when artillery flares lit up the night, and when ice cream, still cold, made it to the field. Even now, on a clear day when the wind is right, we can still smell the burning crappers, the smoke from smoke grenades, and the napalm. Our ears still ring from the sounds of claymores going off, from incoming rockets and the cries of our wounded. We fought to hold the line against communism until finally we withdrew and Saigon fell. But we fought mainly to protect our brothers on our flanks. When we came home, no one said “Thanks for your service,” or “Job well done,” or even, “Welcome home.”
Were you there with me, brother, when we went into the Dominican Republic to stop a communist takeover? Or maybe you were there when we overthrew the socialists in Grenada? We captured the Panamanian dictator and drug-smuggler, Manuel Noriega. We were in Lebanon when terrorists bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut. We lost many brothers that day. The cost of freedom is high and is paid in blood in places like Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Freedom isn’t free.
Were you there with me, brother, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and crossed the line we had drawn in the sand? We countered attacked with Desert Storm. We liberated Kuwait in 100 hours. We stood in shock as we watched oil wells burn. Finally, we invaded Iraq and occupied Baghdad. We searched and captured Hussein. He was tried and hanged. The country held free elections to vote in a new government. We felt the heat in July and August and froze our butts in January. We are still there to help keep the peace and to fight terrorism.
Were you there with me, brother, when we went after the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan? We hunted down Osama bin Laden and finally found him in Abbotabad, Pakistan where Navy SEALs killed him. We participated in Operation Khanjar (“strike of the sword”). We felt the oppressive heat of summer in Kandahar. We are still there to help keep the peace and to fight terrorism.
On this day, Veterans’ Day, we honor all veterans, living or dead. We shall never forget. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all veterans whether we share the same foxhole or just the same experiences. We have your six.