Monday, September 07, 2009
“Old soldiers never die. They just fade away,” according to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Nah, old soldiers — and old sailors, airmen and Marines, too — keep going, and their memories never fade, especially memories of their transition from young men to warriors.
Adventures in Special Forces
This is a good story about showing up to support the men and women we now call "Veteran" and well worth the read. What I want to point out is what a Vietnam Vet had to say about how glad he is "these kids are getting this."
Jim Reistroffer was sent to Vietnam. It cannot be more clear than that. He was sent. He did not say, "Hey why don't we go to Vietnam and fight a war." The nation decided that. While the rest of the people back home fought over the justification of it, his life was on the line. When you read how he was assigned to be a "clerk typist" that was the way it was in Vietnam. You had a job to do to support the structure and that was what your MOS, Military Occupational Specialty. That job could take a few hours a day to perform. The rest of the time, you were with everyone else, doing sweeps, pulling bunker guard duty and whatever else it took to stay alive. Imagine an occupation when part of your job is staying alive if you think you have a hard job to do. Adds a little stress. Doesn't it? Add in bombs and people trying to kill you and your friends. You never knew who was the enemy and who were your supporters among the locals.
Then imagine coming home and the same thing is going on. Instead of dodging bombs and bullets, you had to dodge the memories of them. When it came to your own people, again, you did not know who was the enemy any more than you knew who were your supporters. Even within your own family you'd hear them talk about how it was all a waste of time and money, while you were thinking of friends no longer here, because they died there. You kept quiet. No one considered anything beyond gut reactions into the fact that no one was coming up with any plans to "win" it. It was just allowed to go on and on as the lives were lost and limbs were blown off. You were a stranger in your own town. You were not the same. War changed you from civilian to veteran and you became a member of a minority group few others understood.
We wrote off the Vietnam veterans and wanted to forget all about all the years. We wanted to forget about the lives lost and about the wounded veterans. We told them to just get over it. We basically gave up on them. The truth is, no matter how badly they were treated, they didn't give up on us. They knew within their hearts that if they could help us to understand that combat veterans never really leave war all the way, we would do something about it. They still believed in us.
This faith in the American people did not end when monuments were built and they were suddenly invited to walk in parades. They fought to make sure the unseen wounds were tended to. They fought for treatment and compensation of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a plague every other generation suffered in silence with. They fought for all veterans knowing this price should never be forgotten or hidden.
While they remembered how badly they were treated, they are grateful this new generation is getting what they never did. As the VA and new service groups form using the latest technology to support them, the Vietnam veterans are yet again pushed back and forgotten about. The new groups don't want them in just as the older groups didn't want them in when they came home. Yet what do they do in return? They open their arms for all veterans and stand with them.
They join groups like the Patriot Guard Riders, Rolling Thunder, Vietnam Veterans of America, take the leadership rolls of the DAV, the VFW, the American Legion and Nam Knights, which was founded by a Vietnam veteran and law enforcement officer. They took on filling gaps in all aspects of society like the International Fellowship of Chaplains, founded by a Marine Vietnam veteran and law enforcement officer. Point Man Ministries also begun by a Vietnam veteran.
All they did ended up helping every single law enforcement and firefighter. They helped every civilian and most of us never even understand where this help came from. When it comes to surviving trauma, what we know as PTSD, any help we receive was because they fought for it. They lobbied congress for research and treatment as well as have it recognized as war born disability and be compensated for it. Because of them, there are a lot fewer veterans unable to work because of their service, abandoned by the nation who sent them. Think of how bad it would all be for the newer veterans had they not accomplished what they did and then think about the people across this nation without being treated after traumatic events in our own lives.
The next time there is a tornado or flood or hurricane and people show up to help, this is because of them. Crisis responders were born from their efforts. Trauma teams rushing to help were because of what they started. They came home and fought for themselves along with everyone else, including the people who took out their anger over Vietnam out on them.
They are still standing by the side of the people of this country while most of us still ignore all they did in spite of what we did not do for them.
Thousands help raise funds for wounded warriors
by Thomas Geyer
Jake and Hugh Pries sat with their families Saturday at Davenport's LeClaire Park waiting for the concert to raise funds for wounded warriors to begin.
Jake Pries already has served a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard 834 Combat Engineers. His father, Hugh, a retired Army colonel, served a year in Iraq in 2007-2008 when he was all of 59.
"We're here to listen to good music and support the troops," Hugh Pries said.
"There was no way we weren't going to show up for this," Jake Pries said.
Both appreciated the fact that contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith was on the headline.
"I've listened to him on the radio," Jake Pries said.
More than 6,000 people, nearly all packing lawn chairs and quilts were estimated to have gone through the gates for the concert.
For Jim Reistroffer, of Davenport, the night was special in another way. He served in the Army during Vietnam. He was sent over in 1967 and spent 18 months in country.
When he came home, it was a completely different atmosphere. He wanted to get his uniform off as fast as he could for his own protection.
"I went over as a clerk-typist, and they assigned me to a gunship," he said. "When I came home, we didn't have anything like this. Nobody supported us. We were spit on and called baby killers.
"I'm happy these kids are getting this."
read more here