We have troops fighting overseas. Is it a big war? No. This time — this time it is actually a small conflict, but it is a difficult challenge for the troops involved. Imagine the logistics of fighting in a landlocked nation deep in the interior of Asia. Imagine being so far from home in an unfamiliar culture. Imagine being in land where trusting the people means risking your life. Imagine going to the other side of the world to fight an enemy so filled with hatred that to kill you he will kill himself.
America never has been much for keeping up a large standing army. Therefore, we depend upon a small number of valiant men and women to defend our freedom. Sometimes they have assignments where their permanent quarters are comfortable. Often they stand guard in lonely, rugged places. Occasionally, they are called upon to fight, never knowing exactly what to expect, but hoping their arms and training will be enough, and that their countrymen will not forget them.
What follows are emails I received from two veterans.
First Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter. He retired from U.S. Army as a Colonel after 28 years of service.
Veterans Day…what does it mean to you? Well, for me it is special…it’s the day we pause to honor those who have served. I did for 28 years. Glad I did and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss being in the US Army, with my troops, doing the hard things, working, training, pushing ourselves to higher levels of performance. And then there’s the war. Mine was Desert Storm, the 1st Gulf War; one I had hoped would be the last. But that’s another story.
I can recall when I spoke to my troops the day we left the port of Dammam, Saudi Arabia to deploy to the desert to take our initial positions for the invasion. We were members of the 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One. We were all very aware of our storied history of accomplishment and the ones who had gone before, who had risked all and many who had given the last full measure of devotion. Now it was our turn. I looked into the faces of those men and I told them that we were there to do a job. We would do it, some of us may not come back-and some didn’t-but that we would do our duty just as the motto of the Big Red One says: “No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great, Duty First”. At no time in the history of that motto was it more meaningful than the day the 1St Division stormed Normandy Beach in France on June 6th 1944. The images and meaning of that day, the Longest Day, were with us as we went out into the desert to take our place in the annals of a great Division. I could see in the faces of my troops that day that they understood why they were there and what they were called to do.
Do you know what I’m thinking about today? I’m thinking about their faces….
Next, Bishop E. W. Jackson. In the last election he ran as the Republican Party’s nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia. Before attending college, Jackson served three years as U.S. Marine.
Yesterday I had the privilege of standing with a group of Marines at the graveside of Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller. We were there not only to commemorate the Marine Corps birthday and memorialize one our greatest combat soldiers, but to honor our Veterans and active duty military personnel everywhere.
As I spoke to the illustrious group gathered in Saluda, Virginia where the old General retired, I wondered aloud what he and others who bled and died in the service of our country would think of America today. What would they think of the division by race and gender and income? What would they think of politicians who manipulate these divisions for personal political gain? What would they think of the cuts in our military budget, the specter of a President apologizing to the world for America or shutting our WWII Veterans out of their own memorial? What would they think of the failure to rescue our fellow Americans under attack in Benghazi?
We can only speculate what their response would be. What we do know is that in remembering them, we sound one note of unity. National security is the single most important Constitutional responsibility of our government. It is charged with protecting us and must therefore protect our Veterans from being treated like an afterthought or forgotten. Our men and women in uniform need first rate equipment. They need to be paid so they can support themselves and their families. And we should assure that the benefits we’ve promised them are sacrosanct, not used as leverage in political battles.
If we cannot be unified in anything else this Veterans Day, we must be unified in remembering and honoring our Veterans and active duty military. As Americans, let us make sure that our government honors the promises we have made to them.
For God and Country,