May is National Military Appreciation Month honoring the current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who have died in the pursuit of freedom. This is my tribute to our veterans. 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 Germany Army? Or were you with the 82d Airborne and Patton at the Battle of the Bulge. We liberated Paris. We stood in shook as we saw the survivors of the concentration camps. We saw the ovens and can still smell the burning flesh. We saw the destruction of the German cities, many centuries old – the victims of war. We forgave but couldn’t forget. After the war, we helped to rebuild Europe.
Were you there with me, brother, when the Japanese surprised us and bombed Peral 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 Chosin Few” or, as we called ourselves, “The Frozen Chosin.” We have been there ever since to protect the South Koreans.
Were you there with me, brother, when we went to fight in a country we didn’t know to fight a war we didn’t start and didn’t want. We wadded 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, or when the artillery answered a call for fire support or when Hueys airlifted us into battle or for a medevac. We marveled when Spooky –Puff the Magic Dragon – delivered ordinance on Charlie, or when artillery flares lit up the night or 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 oppressively 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.
–Monte R. Anderson
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