By some miracle, I’m still alive to celebrate again this year. Thank you Gilead Sciences. With Hepatitis C, that which doesn’t kill you nevertheless kicks the shit out of you forever. I think the same applies to VA health care but that is the subject of another blog on another day. Today is a celebration of being alive. Many who served are not. Today is a day for the living and to honor their faithful service. Europeans are free to mope around and put wreaths on graves. That isn’t what this is about. It’s a celebration of the end of a period of man fighting man over politics and religion. Those two subjects are the third rail of civility.
My joy, as it should be, is devoted today to celebrating being alive with all my Veteran friends who are also as lucky. Far too many confuse Memorial Day as part and parcel of this gig. Today, we celebrate the end of a war and, by extension, all Veterans who have served to preserve America and its sovereignty. Some who served in peace feel their service is not as glorious. Hogwash. How many of you signed up on September 1st, 2011 only to shit your pants on the 12th? None, I venture.
Being a Veteran nowadays is becoming more the rare exception rather than the rule. No longer do we have cattle drives to the AFEES station a la draft or due to an attack on us. With the exception of 9/11/2001, things have calmed down somewhat. According to the poohbahs at the VA, there are 20.4 million of us. Given the VA’s inflated self-worth of themselves and their statistical veracity on any subject Veteran, I don’t buy it. Here’s Pew Research’s take on it. I would prefer a Remington Rand Think Tank statistic. They are always willing to spill the beans. Here’s one about AO from the Chinese. They have an excellent field laboratory next door in the DRV. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126552/pdf/srep38012.pdf
I suppose it’s accurate but the fact remains we are becoming more exclusive than the fabled “Entitled White Misogynist Male” club. In point of fact, the numbers of my fellow Vietnam Veterans-those who actually served on the land mass of the Republic of South Vietnam- continue to decline in astonishing numbers. I personally watch in sorrow as the numbers of those who served there decline. Incredibly, every year I google this question and the number seems stuck at 850,000. Notwithstanding that, I know for a fact 28 of my Brothers-in-arms have departed since 2010. Seems they’d revise the list downward to 849,778 to comprehend the loss. Therein lies the problem. What good are stale statistics? How do you adjust the needs or finances of the VA’s medical system if the number of patients remains static in spite of their known demise? Seems similar to Chicago’s voter rolls last week. I do so wish Roseanne Roseannadanna were still alive to opine on this phenomenon. She always brought an open mind to the table.
Fortunately for us “real” Vietnam Veterans, there are a new cohort of stolen valor pseudovets willing to step in and restore equilibrium. About the only place you don’t see them is at Veterans Day parades. Perhaps that’s why the percieved numbers remain static. The 2010 census was a hoot. The DoD insists to this day that our numbers never exceeded 2.7-3.0 million. In spite of that, the 2010 census declared 9-12 million were absolutely sure they set foot on the easterly portion of the Indochinese peninsula fronting the South China Sea. That’s a extremely large number of delusional thinkers disremembering where they served-assuming, arguendo, that they served at all. The most fascinating thing about this is its recentness. Most of my fellow Vets who served in-country (including me) didn’t come out of the closet until after 2001. It wasn’t fashionable yet. It sure wasn’t something we bragged about or regaled our civilian counterparts with tales of when we arrived home.
I lucked out and arrived at SF International in camo fatigues fresh out of the jungle at 0200 on May 17th, 1972 after two tours back to back. I was greeted warmly by the Hare Krishna swing shift. Who would have thought they man the tambourines 24/7? Many of my friends, like Butch Long, Bob Lockett and Chris Dellinges, were deprived and came in on Medivac flights foregoing any warm welcome from their fellow citizens. I certainly don’t feel slighted in the least for missing out on my Flying Spit Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters. I also don’t hold a grudge towards these folks. Everyone is entitled to an opinion in America. From what I can gather, most have issued their politically correct, obligatory mea culpas and now circulate at Veterans Day parades and utter inane phrases like “Welcome Home, sir!” or “May I shake your hand? I’d like to honor you today personally.” Thank you for your service grates on my ears worse than fingernails on a chalkboard now. Somebody ought to point out that’s passé.
To my way of thinking, real Veterans don’t need to seek accolades. We don’t need to wear hats proclaiming our affiliation or bravery. We don’t need free dinners at Applebee’s. We’re smug in that inner satisfaction that we kicked ass and took names when other wimps chose to be all they could be in Canada. We bask in the warmth of a fellow Veteran’s handshake and genuine feelings of camaraderie. We don’t need “stand downs” and handouts. We don’t need quotas or special dispensations for our service. From what I can gather, real combat Vets are not “parade” kinds of guys. We mostly shun being dragged on stages for political purposes by eager politicians wanting to be perceived as “Veterancentric”. Fortunately, I have a great Congressman (Derek Kilmer) who is pro-Vet 24/7/365 rather than motivated on a specific day. His crew is always ready to step in if a problem arises in our district. He is an anomaly in this regard and revels in it. Look at all the congressmen who seek out your votes only to evaporate into thin air a week after an election to become rarer than hen’s teeth. I’m blessed in my little pied-a-terre here at the ass end of Washington (state).
Veterans are the 3%er crowd. We know how rare we are. We don’t need to put on our old uniforms and hang out in airports hoping for praise. We understand the concept of Keeping America Free. We are not inherently racist as we all served in a post-segregation military. We are not weirdo White Supremacist wannabes. We got our yah yahs out in a real military setting-not in psuedo-military organizations that profess hatred.
In a word, we are the perfect, quintessential American. The Citizen Soldier who returns to his plowshare after bearing arms for his Country is one who basks in his mental self-sufficiency and needs no attaboys for his former one-time profession.
Ronald Reagan, a Veteran himself, summed it up best in my mind.
Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder
if they have made a difference in the world.
A Veteran doesn’t have that problem.
Happy Veterans Day to you my Brothers. Live long and prosper.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that.