A point of view about Veterans!

By Patricia Salwei

I approached the entrance to Fort Belvoir's medical facility last year as an old veteran puttered towards me.  Easily over 80 years
old, stooped and slow, I barely gave him a second glance because on his heels was a full bird colonel.

As they approached, I rendered a sharp salute and barked, "Good morning, Sir!” Because they were heel to toe, I began my
salute, as the old veteran was about two paces from me, he immediately came to life!

Transformed by my greeting, he rose to his full height, returned my salute with pride, and exclaimed, "Good morning captain!" I
was startled, but the full bird behind him was flabbergasted. The colonel stopped mid-salute, smiled at me and quietly moved on.

As I entered the clinic, the utter beauty of the encounter preoccupied me. What prompted the old man to assume that I was
saluting him? Perhaps he just thought, "It's about time!" After all, doesn't a veteran outrank us all? I turned my attention to the
waiting room taking a moment to survey the veterans there. Service people rushed around, loudspeakers blared, the bell for the
prescription window kept ringing.  It was a whirl of activity and the older veterans sat quietly on the outside seemingly out of
step, patiently waiting to be seen. Nobody was seeing.

My old friend stayed on my mind.  I began to pay attention to the military's attitude towards its veterans. I witnessed indifference:
Impatient soldiers and airmen plowing over little old ladies at the commissary; I noticed my own agitation as an older couple
cornered me at the Officer's Club and began reminiscing about their tour in Germany.

To our disgrace, I have also witnessed disdain: At Ramstein Air Base terminal, an airman was condescending and borderline
cruel with a deaf veteran flying Space Available; An ancient woman wearing a WACS button was shoved aside by a cadet at the
Women's Memorial dedication in D.C.; A member of the color guard turned away in disgust from a drunk Vietnam vet trying to talk
to him before the Veteran's Day Ceremony at the Vietnam War Memorial.

Have you been to a ceremony at the Wall lately? How about a Veteran's Day parade in a small town? The crowds are growing
faint. Why do we expect the general public to care if we don't? We are getting comfortable again.

It is not my intention to minimize the selfless service of our modern military; my comrades are the greatest people I know. But
lately I'm wondering if the public's attitude towards the military isn't just a reflection of the active duty military's attitude towards
its own veterans.

It's time to ask -- do we regard them, do we consider them at all?  How does our attitude change when the hero is no longer
wearing a uniform?

I was proud to wear my uniform. Can I admit that I thought it was cool? There is no denying that there is something about our
profession, combined with youth, that feeds the ego a little.

We have all seen a young pilot strut into the Officer's Club with his flight suit on. He matters; he takes on the room; he knows he
can take on the world. But, one day he will leave his jet for a desk, and eventually he will have to hang up that flight suit. A super
hero hanging up his cape. How will we measure his value then? He will no longer look like a pilot, an officer, a colonel. He'll just
look like an old man coming out of the clinic with his prescription.

But, is he less of a hero? Will anybody remember or care about all the months he spent away from his newborn daughter while
making peace a possibility in the Balkans, probably not.

Our society has a short memory. Maybe it is not for the protected to understand. Rather, it is my hope that when a young
lieutenant walks by him they will each see themselves reflected in the other - one's future, the other's past. In that moment,
perhaps, the lieutenant will also see the hero, now disguised as an old man, and thank him.

The truth is there are heroes in disguise everywhere. I used to wonder why people would want to chat with me when I was in
uniform, telling me about their four years as a radio operator in Korea. So what? I wasn't impressed relative to my own
experiences. Now I understand that they were telling me because nobody else cared. Proud of their service, no matter how
limited, and still in love with our country, they were trying to stay connected. Their stories were a code for "I understand and
appreciate you, can you appreciate me?"  The answer is yes.

I separated from the military in February. I'm out of the club. Still, I want you to know that I'll attend the parades, visit the
memorials, and honor you while my kids and your kids are watching.

Then, maybe someday when I'm an old woman riding the metro, a young airman will take a moment of her time to listen to one of
my war stories. I, in turn, will soak in her beauty and strength, and remember.

Today as I reflect on my adventures in the Air Force, I'm thinking of that ancient warrior I collided with at Fort Belvoir. I'm
wondering where he is, if he's still alive, if it's too late to thank him. I want to start a campaign in his honor - Salute a Veteran.
Yes, this started out as a misunderstanding on my part. But, now I get it. That day was the first time in my life that I really
understood what it meant to salute someone.

Dear veteran, I recognize and hail you! I do understand what I have and what you have given to make it possible. So I'm
wondering if we meet on the street again, may I salute you?

When a Veteran leaves the 'job' and retires to a better life, many are jealous, some are pleased, and others, who may have
already retired, wonder if he knows what he is leaving behind, because we already know.

1. We know, for example, that after a lifetime of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing for those past times.

2. We know in the Military life there is a fellowship which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet.

3. We know even if he throws them away, they will be on him with every step and breath that remains in his life. We also know
how the very bearing of the man speaks of what he was and in his heart still is.

These are the burdens of the job. You will still look at people suspiciously, still see what others do not see or choose to ignore
and always will look at the rest of the Military world with a respect for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing.

Never think for one moment you are escaping from that life. You are only escaping the 'job' and merely being allowed to leave
'active' duty.

So what I wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that you are still
a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.

NOW! Civilian Friends vs. Veteran Friends Comparisons

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Get upset if you're too busy to talk to them for a week.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Are glad to see you after years, and will happily carry on the same conversation you were having the last
time you met.
------------------------------ ---------------------
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have never seen you cry.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Have cried with you.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Keep your stuff so long they forget it's yours.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Borrow your stuff for a few days then give it back.
------------------------------ -------------------
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Know a few things about you.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will leave you behind if that's what the crowd is doing.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will kick the crowd's ass that left you behind.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Are for a while.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Are for life.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have shared a few experiences...
VETERAN FRIENDS: Have shared a lifetime of experiences no citizen could ever dream of...
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will take your drink away when they think you've had enough.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will look at you stumbling all over the place and say, 'You better drink the rest of that before you spill it!'
Then carry you home safely and put you to bed...
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will talk crap to the person who talks crap about you.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will knock the crap the hell out OF THEM...for using your name in vain.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will ignore this.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will forward this.
---------------------------- ------------------------
A veteran - whether active duty, retired, or reserve - is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made
payable to 'The Government of the United States of America' for an amount of 'up to and including my life’ . . .
and military wives are as much veterans as their spouses.

From one Veteran to another, it's an honor to be in your company. Thank you Veterans.

The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

~Author Unknown~

It's the Soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us the freedom of the press.

It's the Soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us the freedom of speech.

It's the Soldier, not the politicians,
That ensures our right to Life, Liberty and
the Pursuit of Happiness.

It's the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag.
------------ --------- --------- --- ------ ----

'If the enemy is in range, so are you.'
- Infantry Journal

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'It is generally inadvisable to eject
directly over the area you just

- US. Air Force Manual

----------- --------- --------- ---------

'Whoever said the pen is mightier than
the sword obviously never
encountered automatic weapons.'

- General Mac Arthur

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'You, you, and you ... Panic.
The rest of you, come with me.'

- U.S. Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt.

------ ------ --------- --------- ---------

'Tracers work both ways.'

-  U.S. Army Ordnance

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'Five second fuses only last three

- Infantry Journal

----------- - --- ------ --------- ---------

'Any ship can be a minesweeper.

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you
have nothing to do'

- Unknown Marine Recruit

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'If you see a bomb technician running,
try to keep up with him.'

- USAF Ammo Troop

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'Though I Fly Through the  Valley  of  
the  Shadow  of  Death,
I Shall Fear No Evil.
For I am at 50,000 Feet and Climbing.'

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'You've never been lost until you've
been lost at Mach 3.'

- Paul F. Crickmore (test pilot)

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'The only time you have too much fuel
is when you're on fire.'

------------ --------- -- ------- ---------

'If the wings are traveling faster than
the fuselage, it's probably a helicopter
-- and therefore, unsafe.'

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'When one engine fails on a
twin-engine airplane you always have
enough power left to get you to the
scene of the crash.'
'Even with ammunition, the USAF is
just another expensive flying club.'

------------ --------- ------- -- ---------

'What is the similarity between air
traffic controllers and pilots?
If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies;
If ATC screws up, .... The pilot dies.'

------------ --------- --------- ---------

The three most common expressions
(or famous last words) in aviation are:

'Why is it doing that?'
'Where are we?'
'Oh S...!'

----------- --------- --------- ---------

'Airspeed, altitude and brains.
Two are always needed to successfully
complete the flight.'

------------ --------- --------- --------- -
'Mankind has a perfect record in
we have never left one up there!'

----------- --------- --------- ---------

'Flying the airplane is more important
than radioing your plight to a person
on the ground incapable of
understanding or doing anything about

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in
the world; it can just barely kill you.'

- Attributed to Max Stanley
(Northrop test pilot)

------------ --------- --------- ---------

Airman, maintain thy air speed
lest the earth rise up and smite thee!

----------------------  -------------------

'There is no reason to fly through
a thunderstorm in peacetime.'

Sign over squadron ops desk at
Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, 1970

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'If something hasn't broken on your
helicopter, it's about to.'

------------ --------- --------- ---------

'You know that your landing gear is up
and locked when it takes full power to
taxi to the terminal.'

------------ --------- --------- ---------

As the test pilot climbs out of the
experimental aircraft, having torn
off the wings and tail in the crash
the crash truck arrives;

the rescuer sees a bloodied pilot and
asks, 'What happened?'

The pilot's reply: 'I don't know, I just got
here myself!'

- Attributed to Ray Crandell
(Lockheed test pilot)
Personal homeWhat is Viet Nam VeteranGun ControlCharlie Company Home
Movie Clips of important TopicsAre Veterans a threat2nd Amendment Explaination & stories10th Amendment - States rightsMaxine, the MarineMaxine does it againImmigration Laws - MexicoThe Tear, Gift from Russia
Ed Freeman, a true HEROWhat the ACLU is aboutFirearms Refresher ClassMore Political StatementsPublished ArticlesPTSD Links