Today is Veteran’s Day and for many of us that means gathering downtown to watch a local Veteran’s Day parade. Veterans and active duty members will march the parade route in uniform while holding Old Glory along with unit flags. Your local high school JROTC cadets will march in column and the bands will play. Old cars and floats will carry VIPs and people from our community along the parade route. Families, far and wide, will grab their piece of sidewalk along the route hoping to catch a glimpse of all the activity as it passes by. It is truly a great day and a terrific event that honors those men and women of our society who have served our great country in time of war and peace.
Besides the folks you will see at the parade or around town there are some other veterans that you may not see on this special day – nor any day for that matter. Let me introduce you to a few of them:
Corporal Jim served during the Korean War and saw combat operations first hand in the mountains and gullies of that landscape. He survived the frigid winters wearing only leather boots and green fatigues that would not keep you warm on a cool fall evening in Kansas. As former U.S. Secretary of State, Dean Acheson (1893-1971), once said about the Korean War, “If the best minds in the world had set out to find us the worst possible location in the world to fight this damnable war, the unanimous choice would have been Korea.”
The fighting and the environment in “The Forgotten War”, as it is referred to, was exceptionally grueling claiming almost 40,000 American lives and seeing another 100,000 wounded. But Jim along with his fellow soldiers made it through and came home. However, Jim will not be at the parade today, he will be sitting alone holed up in a nursing home somewhere. He will be forgotten just like the war he fought so valiantly in.
Corporal Jim is an American military veteran – even though you don’t see or spend time with him.
Sgt. Mike served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968 and experienced combat in the rice paddies and jungles there. He survived the relentless conditions and guerrilla warfare during his tour only to have to fight more battles when he arrived back home in the states. In the late 60’s and early 70’s there were no parades, no welcome parties – just hostility toward him and the military in general. PTSD would eventually take hold of his life and he would slowly slip away into the shadows of our society. You may not notice him because he exists in the back drop of our busy lives. You may be able to catch a glimpse of him as he sits on a bus bench in his tattered clothes, still seeking our respect and gratitude.
Sgt. Mike is an American military veteran – even though you don’t recognize or respect him.
Lt. Amy served in Iraq during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was courageous and fearless in the face of the fierce fighting she witnessed throughout that desert country. Upon returning home and being honorably discharged she couldn’t find the necessary employment with an employer who would allow her the time off from work to seek the mental health counselling she so desperately needed. Now-a-days she wakes up and looks at the pictures of her family pinned to the wall of her cardboard home – the one she erected for herself in the woods out of eye sight from our comfortable communities.
Lt. Amy is one of tens of thousands of vets who were heroes one day and homeless the next. She is an American military veteran.
Gunnery Sergeant Willis served in both Iraq and Afghanistan with a total of 4 combat tours attributed to his service to this country that he loved so much. He volunteered to take up arms so that Americans across this great land can voice their own opinions, protest, and live free. But the effects of 4 combat tours took its toll on him and he committed suicide today. He joined the tens of thousands of his fellow veterans plagued with grief, turmoil and PTSD.
Gunnery Sergeant Willis was an American military veteran.
Each of the aforementioned men and women, whose names and ranks are fictitious but whose stories are not, represent millions of veterans across this country that are struggling and hurting. These honorable patriots raised their right hand and swore an oath to defend this country. They consciously chose to join one of our 5 superb service components and to serve in uniform. But these veterans will not be at a Veteran’s Day parade today or even in the near future unless they receive help from you and me.
Please join me as I stand with and reach out to all of our veterans – both seen and unseen. Take a moment out of your busy day to go online or call your favorite veterans support organization and make a monetary pledge to help out the literal millions of veterans who desperately need our help. Perhaps you can organize people in your community to reach out to our veteran heroes and assist them in ending their homelessness. Or maybe you could just visit a retirement home near you and spend time with a forgotten veteran and make their day through your recognition of their service and existence.
I firm crisp salute to all of our American military veterans.
Viper One Six – Out
As a personal footnote, I pay tribute to:
My father, Frank E. Shearman III served in the US Navy in WWII. God rest your soul dad.
My dear uncle, Corporal Robert McCartney, served in Korea and I thank him for his valiant service to this country. He is and has always been a father figure to me throughout my life after my father passed.
Captain Frank E. Shearman IV (USN retired) – 38 years in the US Navy. Seaman recruit to Captain (O-6). He has always been a thorn in my side and the best role model there is. Thank you for your exemplary service sir.
Master Gunnery Sergeant Steve Shearman (USMC retired) – He showed me the way into the Marine Corps and has always been a positive and uplifting role model for me. Thank you for your service Master Guns!
To future Lieutenant Julie A. Shearman (US Army ROTC – Pittsburg State University ROTC) – My heart pounds with respect and admiration for all that you have accomplished and the goals and objectives you have set for yourself in your new career. Hooyah!
First published 11/10/2016 – Leavenworth Times