What Veterans Day Means To Me

Pvt V. C. Hardacker
Parris Island, SC
July to September 1966

Vaughn Hardacker here: I have been sitting here watching the news on my local television station. Due to the upcoming Veterans Day holiday they have been running a series of commercials featuring veterans and each of them spoke about lost comrades in arms. Veterans Day is not for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we observe Memorial Day for that purpose. Veterans Day is to recognize all who have served. That’s not to take anything away from those who gave all, its a way of thanking all of our veterans from all of our military services, not only those who served in combat. Many veterans never hear a shot fired in anger, however, they made themselves available if called–Veterans Day is when we say thank you to these men and women, living and dead.

Veterans Day was originally celebrated as Armistice Day. It is a unique holiday as it is always celebrated on November 11. World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ended about seven months before that when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

I am currently serving as Commandant of Detachment 1414 of the Marine Corps League. This past summer we undertook a mission to identify and visit with each WWII veteran in northern Aroostook County. We held ceremonies at several places and presented each veteran with an encased United States Flag and a Certificate of Appreciation. I had no idea of the affect it would have on me. As I presented the award to each veteran and shook their hands I was humbled when these men and women (we had the honor of presenting to a  lady who served in the United States Army Air Corps–the precursor to the U. S. Air Force. she is 95 years young and drove forty plus miles to attend–note I said drove, not was driven) thanked me with tears in their eyes. All I could say was, “No, sir (or ma’am) THANK YOU.” Many of the veterans we presented to were unable to attend the ceremonies so my officers and I visited them in their homes. In every visit, family members took me aside and told me how great it was that we were doing this and how much it meant to these aging vets to know that they were not forgotten. During the period we were doing this I was watching The Man in the High Castle, an American alternate history television series depicting a parallel universe where the Axis powers win World War II. The series is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name. As I watched I could not help but think: There, if not for the brave veterans of WWII, goes us.

I now fully know what humility is–I felt it each time I was in the presence of these members of our Greatest Generation. It is sobering to realize that within the next decade we will have lost virtually all of these true heroes. (Since we visited several of these vets have passed over, I am thankful we met them before it was too late.)

Here is a poem I came across that I believe everyone who enjoys freedom should read:

I AM A VETERAN                                                                                                                                 by Andrea Christensen Brett

You may not know me the first time we meet                                                                                I’m just another you see on the street                                                                                            But I am the reason you walk and breathe free                                                                                I am the reason for your liberty

I AM A VETERAN

I work in the local factory all day                                                                                                          I own the restaurant just down the way                                                                                             I sell you insurance, I start your IV                                                                                                   I’ve got the best-looking grandkids you’ll ever see

I’m your grocer, your banker                                                                                                               Your child’s schoolteacher                                                                                                                I’m your plumber, your barber                                                                                                             Your family’s preacher                                                                                                                      But there’s part of me you don’t know very well                                                                        Just listen a moment, I’ve a story to tell

I AM A VETERAN

I joined the service while still in my teens                                                                                          I traded my prom dress for camouflage greens                                                                            I’m the first in my family to do something like this                                                                          I followed my father, like he followed his

Defying my fears and hiding my doubt                                                                                              I married my sweetheart before I shipped out                                                                                   I missed Christmas, then Easter                                                                                                      The birth of my son                                                                                                                            But I knew I was doing what had to be done

I served on the battlefront, I served on the base                                                                              I bound up the wounded                                                                                                                   And begged for God’s grace                                                                                                                   I gave orders to fire, I followed commands                                                                                       I marched into conflict in far distant lands

In the jungle, the desert, on mountains and shores                                                                         In bunkers, in tents, on dank earthen floors                                                                             While I fought on the ground, in the air, on the sea                                                                    My family and friends were home praying for me

For the land of the free and the home of the brave                                                                          I faced my demons in foxholes and caves                                                                                     Then one dreaded day, without drummer or fife                                                                             I lost an arm, my buddy lost his life

I came home and moved on                                                                                                              But forever was changed                                                                                                                   The perils of war in my memory remained                                                                                         I don’t really say much, I don’t feel like I can                                                                                But I left home a child, and came home a man

There are thousands like me                                                                                                    Thousands more who are gone                                                                                                              But their legacy lives as time marches on                                                                                  White crosses in rows                                                                                                                       And names carved in queue                                                                                                                Remind us of what these brave souls had to do

I’m part of a fellowship, a strong mighty band                                                                                   Of each man and each woman                                                                                                              Who has served this great land                                                                                                       And when Old Glory waves                                                                                                                   I stand proud, I stand tall                                                                                                                       I helped keep her flying over you, over all

I AM A VETERAN                                                                                                                                 © Copyright Andrea C. Brett 2003, All rights reserved                     https://www.iamaveteran.net/the-country-annex

Always Remember:

“A soldier doesn’t fight because he hates what’s in front of him. He fights because he loves what he left behind.”Anonymous

“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to act in the presence of fear.” —Anonymous

“This nation will remain the land of the free as long as it is the home of the brave.”Anonymous

 

About Vaughn C. Hardacker

Vaughn C. Hardacker has completed five novels and numerous short stories. He is a member of the New England Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller writers. Three times he has been a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards Crime Fiction category, SNIPER, in 2015, THE FISHERMAN in 2016, and WENDIGO for the 2018 award. The second installment of his Ed Traynor series, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER was released in July 2019. He is a veteran of the U. S. Marines and served in Vietnam. He holds degrees from Northern Maine Technical College, the University of Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Stockholm, Maine.
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4 Responses to What Veterans Day Means To Me

  1. Julianne Spreng says:

    My husband is a veteran of the Vietnam conflict. We attended a second gathering of Vietnam veterans on Friday evening but all area vets were invited to attend. The speaker was a veteran of Vietnam, too. What he had to say was very powerful.

    He began by asking who do you think were the heroes of the war? Many replied that the soldiers who died overseas are the heroes. Or maybe the ones who saw combat and were wounded. Or survived combat to come home.

    He made a really good case that anyone who served anywhere were heroes. The service members in Germany simply by their presence kept the Communists in East Germany from taking further steps. Those in Japan or Thailand or elsewhere in the East who didn’t see combat simply by their presence kept the Chinese from moving their borders. Even the ones who never left stateside manned the silos, flew the watches over Alaska or simply by their presence reminded all would be enemies that we were not unprotected and allowed everyone at home to enjoy their daily lives.

    By the end of his remarks you could see so many in the audience sitting taller with more pride. They had never looked at the time that they served in a noncombat post as valuable. My Uncle Greg spent WW11 in South America watching for submarine traffic. His three other brothers were in active combat on the fronts in Europe. He never felt that his service was as valuable as theirs. I wish he could have heard this perspective.

    Like

    • Point well made! Whether or not a person served in a combat situation they made themselves available. It should be mentioned that it takes around 100 people to keep 1 infantryman in the field. Many who serve behind the lines are responsible for saving innumerable lives of those on the front lines.

      Like

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