It is good people like you who make it an honor to serve America. My journey began as a wise-a** Bronx kid who had his fill of school (for the time being). My dad taught at Pace University in Manhattan so I had a free ride - if I wanted it. My dad was vintage "old school," as am I (to this day and forevermore). He believed that if a child does not want to further their education, "machining" the child into college is counterproductive. Dad lived to see his only child graduate and go on to law school. In fact, he presented me my diploma in 1985 on the podium when Pace's graduation ceremony was held at Madison Square Garden. How glad I was that I could give him that moment. His words to me: ""I never thought I would live to see this day." It was a time to cry and I did.
It was 1966 and Vietnam was in high gear. Getting a job at my age (then 17 1/2) in New York was rough. Employers knew that you were ripe to be drafted and I was too young to get a drivers license. So I went to see the local Air Force recruiter and did it! My dad had to sign and, after assuaging mom's fears, did.
My Bronx attitude made me a bullseye for the drill sergeant's fist. Remember the basic training portion of "Full Metal Jacket"? I lived it. And Tech Sgt. Harold Barrett probably saved my life. He certainly turned a punk into a man.
War is far different from a John Wayne movie. There is little glory - - just death. I killed five VC before my 19th birthday. It was my duty and I did it. My job as an Aeromedical/Rescue Tech had me see some horrible things. We went down from helicopters at night. We made life and death decisions. Cutty Sark scotch and I became best buddies.
Memorial Day rings special to me. I lost several pals in battle. And it made me HATE the Vietnamese people.
Until I met Richard and his wife aboard a cruise ship decades later.
They were seated at an adjacent table. I knew from their facial features they were Vietnamese. After dinner one night, Richard asked me if I was a Vietnam Vet (I had a lapel pin on). Sarcastically, I replied "yeah." Without another breath he extended his hand and said "thank you for fighting for my family's freedom."
In that one instant, I realized that my hate was vile and unfair. And I left it at sea. Richard's family and mine exchange Christmas cards each December.
I will not get political - we all have a right to support whom we choose to. However, no one can deny that the respect and medical/psychiatric care for Veterans has been taken from the basement to the roof over the past three+ years. When I was mustered out, some people spat at Veterans and called us murderers. Today's level of concern and respect warms me. May it always be so. For it is the "right thing."
In 2001, I was employed by New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. On September 11th of that fateful year, I was on my way to a morning meeting as a member of a task force led by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ( one of the best guys I can call my friend). The meeting was to convene at 7 World Trade Center.
By the Grace of God, the subway was late that morning. Irony had me emerge from the station in front of Pace University when the first hijacked plane hit. Was it an accident? That theory was set aside when the second plane struck. I remember standing alongside a young NYC cop and telling him: "Dear God, we are at war." For the next two weeks, I was involved in the rescue/recovery operation. See, I had started as a bus driver (still in undergrad then) and it was all hands on deck. I have signed dozens of affidavits since then certifying that former colleagues who developed several forms of cancer were, in fact, part of the rescue. I had a benign thymoma carved out of my chest four years ago. I never made a claim opining that the money should go to those who sorely need it. Now, it's my turn. Yes, what we breathed in and absorbed is recognized as a possible causation of prostate cancer.
God Bless those who made the ultimate sacrifice. For I thank them for my family's freedom.
All of us in this forum are Warriors and the klaxon is sounding. Now, let's all go Gung Ho and beat the crap out of prostate cancer.
Via our brotherhood - - we can do this!!! Via our brotherhood - - we WILL do this!!!
Fred - - Sergeant, United States Air Force (11 Oct 66 - 10 Oct 70)
Post Edited (NJFred) : 5/26/2020 5:38:04 AM (GMT-6)