Thoughts from a Veteran. . . On Memorial Day

Army SolidierI'm old enough to remember World War II. It was a different time and the country was united behind the effort. We stood on empty soup cans to flatten them out so they could be used to build tanks. Our food was rationed. We were only allowed limited amounts of milk, gas, meat and other products. The movie theaters showed newsreels of Europe being bombed and people who were injured. We thought it would never end; but it did.

When people returned from the war, they were welcomed and honored. Everyone paid respect for those who were lost. Even though most of us didn't have a television, we knew and cared about what was happening and respected and thanked those who served to protect our country and to help our allies in Europe. The general public only knew the broad brushstrokes of the war. The veterans experienced it firsthand. And they lived with it the rest of their lives.

The generation of veterans from that war are mostly gone but you occasionally see a few wearing a baseball hat or tee shirt with some patriotic message. I saw one recently in a mall. He was sitting alone reading a book. I walked up to him and shook his hand to thank him. He was old and frail but looked up from his book, stared at me and simply said "thanks." Then he went about reading. I shake the hand of every veteran or anyone in uniform I see. It's the least I can do.

None of us are looking for attention. We only want others to appreciate the freedoms they enjoy. Many carry physical as well as mental scars for the rest of their lives. Some have seen things that they never discuss. Anyone who has served has lost friends or relatives in service to our country. And, most have seen things they couldn't talk about when they returned home. They just deal with it because it was their duty.

Every generation seems to face a different threat. My time in the military was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. I was a Naval Aviator and took part in the Cuban Blockade. We flew over Soviet trawlers carrying missiles. We photographed them on the ground in Cuba . . . 90 miles from America. The threat was real and the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

Army JetsPresident Kennedy gave the Soviets an ultimatum. All missiles had to be removed immediately. They refused. It was a Sunday morning in October when the briefing officer gave us details of the morning launch. The attack planes were loaded with bombs and missiles and targets were assigned. The order to "man aircraft" was given. We were fully armed, with engines running and on the catapults for 20 minutes before the order came to stand down. The Soviets blinked and agreed to withdraw the missiles.

Patrol planes were launched and we tracked the trawlers heading away from the island with their missiles. During the following months, we monitored the removal of missiles. The threat was over.

The point I want to make is that we returned home and were unable or unwilling to discuss what happened. Life went on as usual for most Americans. Many of those returning home today are also unable to talk about their efforts. Honor them by thanking them, helping those with life-long injuries and remembering those who did not return. Most veterans don't freely discuss their time serving the country. Most dismiss any attention. All appreciate an occasional thank you. It was an honor and a privilege to serve and, for most, the oath we took all those years ago to protect and defend . . . is still in effect.

In honor of the many veterans working for D&B Tile Distributors, we will be closed on Memorial Day. We thank all veterans and active duty members for their service and dedication to America.