Once upon a time, it seemed everyone you knew was a veteran. Of course, I grew up during World War II when, if you could walk, you were in uniform. Those veterans saved the world, as America has done so often.
It is so hurtful to our fighting men when some of our own people will criticize America. We, as a nation, are the greatest nation on earth. Though we have our faults, one of them is not a lack of courage or care for our fellow man. Today, it is hard to find a young man who is a veteran, and a majority of American men have never worn the uniform of this nation.
Back in 1950, when I was trying to establish a photographic business, and my brother, Jim, was graduating NFA, Americans were fighting in Korea. Harry Truman was president, and he called the Korean War a “police action.” Korea was a war, and 54, 299 American servicemen were killed in action.
There are today Vietnam veterans who, I believe, make up the majority of younger veterans. Of course, today we are fighting two wars, and we have spilled a lot of blood of young men and women who have given their lives for their country.
Most veterans don’t see combat, but they do surrender their freedom to a greater cause — their country. They are not free to come and go as they please. They are told what to do and when to do it. I did benefit from my stay in the Marine Corps and am proud of the fact that I am a veteran and will always be a Marine. I went into the Marines a boot and was honorably discharged a staff sergeant.
There is a discipline that our veterans had to learn that I think would be so good for all young men. When you read of the gang wars in New Haven and Hartford, I can’t help thinking if every young man in America had to spend a year or two in the military, the streets of major cities would be a lot safer, because the Army, Navy, Coast Guard or Air Force have a way of teaching young men what authority means, and you learn quickly to respect it. I think military training is good for a man and does make you feel grateful for the lessons you learn and the comrades you make.
This coming Wednesday, Nov. 11, is Veteran’s Day, and we should think and pray for our veterans of all wars.
When Jim and I joined the Marine Corps, we had no idea what military life was like. Our first night at Parris Island, we laid awake, both wondering why in the world we had joined the Corps. I am sure the same is true of Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Air Force veterans. The training is not glamorous.
Jim and I joined the Marine Corps, although, in 1950, they were drafting men into the military. All of Eastern Connecticut, during World War II, was very much a Navy area.
So many sailors from all over the country were stationed at the submarine base, and many families, the Stanley’s among them, would invite sailors or coastguardsmen to Sunday dinner. There was always a sailor or coastguardsmen at our Thanksgiving dinner as well as Christmas and Easter.
War is a terrible thing, but the one thing that it does do is bring a nation together, and it does increase appreciation for the veteran who is, after all, offering his life for this nation and all of us.
There was a time when I was part of a Fourth of July cookout and was introduced to a former Nazi SS commander. He was insulted when I refused to shake his hand. He went on to lecture me about the super race, which he was part of. He literally shouted the Nazis were better than the Americans.
My response was, “The people you hate, the Jews, the Poles and the blacks, all put down their six packs of beer and bowling balls, went over and beat you after you had prepared for war for 20 years. We also had greater generals.”
He said, “Who, besides Patton?”
I said, “We had General Motors, General Dynamics and General Election.”
His response was, “Ya, Ya. Your generals beat us.”
Today, as America takes apart its great industrial might, I wonder, if we were to get into a world war in the future, what would we do without the great generals of industry to supply the goods for the fighting men.
On Wednesday, stop and think of what this country has paid for peace in the world, and think of the sacrifice that Joe Blow, American veteran, has made for you. Let’s all pray for the safety of those young men and women fighting two wars for the good of the world and to stop terrorism.
It is indeed an honor to be a veteran, and I wish there were more young men today that would become part of the military. The pay is not bad, and the opportunity, now and in the future, is great. A side benefit is the training, which is excellent, and military training prepares you for so many things in later life.
It is easy for people who haven’t been there to look at the news and the men and women, but for those in combat zones, there is so much they have given up that we don’t even think of.
In Korea, the temperature was tropical in the summer. In the winter, it fell to 30 and 40 degrees below zero. There were no warm showers in the winter; no cool showers in the summer. Simple things like bathrooms and hot meals were seldom available.
It is so easy to forget, but, of course, guys my age lived during World War II, when America’s military might was 16 million men strong.
Thousands were killed in a single day. During that terrible war, more than 400,000 of the “greatest generation” were killed in action. Today’s wars are different, as the enemy doesn’t have uniforms, nor do they carry flags, nor do they have any purpose except hate.
While we may not like the war we are fighting, someone has got to put out the evil that extreme terrorists have imposed on the world.
You can’t pick and chose your wars, but once you get in, the one thing we, as a nation, should do is support the troops that are under fire with everything they need, including our prayers.