WHAT IS A VETERAN?
By: Theresa Hubbard, Commander (USCG ret.), Eagle Forum Anti-Terrorism Chairman and serves on the Eagle Forum of Alabama’s board
November 8, 2019
Just who and what is a Veteran? A Veteran is the neighbor down the street, the school bus driver, the golf car repairman, the guy who drives the garbage truck, the entrepreneur who runs the patriotic T-Shirt company, one who started the coffee company for deployed troops, the CEO, the doctor, the lawyer, and the nurse. A Veteran could be standing next to you waiting, at the light of a busy intersection, to cross the street. Most of the time they look just like you or me, but they carry a load of memories with scars seen and unseen. Sometimes they don’t look like us because they have lost an arm, a leg, or both or all. You will see them with the amazing prosthetics made today, or you’ll see them in the wheelchair with their scars from the Middle East, Vietnam, Korea, or the continent of Europe. Some are young and still in their 20’s others are aging in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
The Veteran is the man who went off to the South Pacific in WWII with his fellow Marines. He left home a handsome young 19-year-old and came home a white-haired man of 21. Rarely did he talk about the island hopping that he did, and the intense fighting done day to day to survive. The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima was 2 minutes in days filled of living in hell. Few know of the hero who came home an old man of 21.
The Veteran is the young woman who joined the Army became a MP, then went to Afghanistan to do her duty. After serval months of routine duty, the day came when returning back to base the Humvee she was in hit an IED. Tangled, mangled and confused she was medevaced out along with the others in the vehicle and before she knew it, her duty to country was done. Luckily, no one was killed that day. Back in the states and out of the Army she became a preschool teacher. Few know of the hero who now teaches young children.
The Veteran is the 90-year-old who after serving 26 years, went to get his benefits from the VA and was told his military record had been destroyed in a fire and his TDY records of his time in Korea and Vietnam no longer existed. There was no proof of his service to his country. Now when he needs his country the most, he is obligated to prove his service to the country. For him it was like being punched in the stomach. Few know of the hero who was told you were never in combat.
The Veteran is the man who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he survived IED’s, RPG’s, and homicide bombings, lost friends, and spilled blood in a land that is harsh, brutal, unforgiving and tribal. Yet he fights on, continues to serve, but now he drinks too much, is short tempered, on the verge of losing his family and he knows not where to turn for help. He wonders what it is all for, but then realizes that is above his paygrade, and continues to serve. Few know of the hero who is just trying to survive with his demons from one day to the next.
The Veteran is the one who served on missions, secretly going after those who would do America harm. These are stories we will rarely hear about because of their classification. Often times they leave home with no notice and cannot call home because of the secrecy behind what they are doing. When it all goes down, however, family members knowing their loved one is deployed, and hearing nothing from them and now a big mission hits the headlines. Hummmmm, they wonder????? Few know of the hero who went on those special, highly classified missions and returned home the quiet, humble solider.
The Veteran is part of a crew who goes into the night by helicopter, C-130, Cutter, or boat when a fishing vessel, small boat, ship or downed aircraft is in distress. He goes when no one else will. On one rescue in he was responsible for saving the lives of four M/V crewmembers who had gone aground near a rugged coastline, next to cliffs, in a blinding snowstorm, with 40 knot winds. It was his responsibility to read the radar, direct the pilot on where to hover so they didn’t hit the nearby cliffs, to lower the hoist and time the waves in order to get those off the vessel below. This is just one of numerous rescues he was on, going into the water on 4 different occasions, long before there was a rate or training provided, it was a judgement call in those days. At one point a fellow crewmember put him in for the “Distinguished Flying Cross” when he participated in another bad weather mission but was told it was denied because he was “just doing his job.” In 27 ½ years of service he had one personal award to show for the numerous lives he aided in saving. Few know of the hero of the 1960’s who helped saved so many lives under the worst of weather conditions.
The Veteran is the one who lost her arm and leg from an IED, has come back from the abyss and has adjusted to the prosthetic arm and leg she needs to get around, and now has a job. Yet she is self-conscious about her broken and scarred body and wonders late at night if she will ever find someone who will love her for her and if she will ever know the joy of having a family. Few know of the hero who fears never having a family.
The Veteran is the one who lost everything, faith, family, friends, and home, he lost it all. Then through some miracle came back, got the help he needed and saw the need for helping other Veterans and their families. So, he and a group of fellow Vets got together and started a non-profit for the battle scarred Veteran and his or her family. So often we think about what our Veterans are going through and forget about the spouses and the children who so love and admire their Vet but find it difficult to deal with him or her. Often times it is only the Vets and their spouses who understand how hard it is to turn around the pain of war and it is only a fellow Vet they will turn to for help in piecing back the part of their lives so badly broken. Few know of the hero who is now trying to help save a fellow hero and put his or her life back together with their family intact.
The stories of our Veterans and what they go through are many. If you have one in your family write down their stories and the struggles they have had. It will help others in the family understand who they are and what they have been through. If you don’t have a Veteran in your family pray for them daily, for they need your prayers. Help where you can for these are just a few of their stories, there are many more out there, some good, some bad and some uplifting. Yet, I can tell you that all Vets have memories that were awe inspiring that gives credence to the term “Band of Brothers” and if asked “Would you do it all again?” The answer is always a resounding, “Yes!” On this Veterans Day, do as I do, remember those who have served and given so much of themselves for our freedoms in America. Thank you.