My awe and respect for the dedication , sacrifices and courage of our military and their families grows with each interaction and day. Growing up it was something off in the distance, a war movie and some obscure references to my Dad and Uncles serving in different branches of service , but no details; a navy pea coat passed down from my Uncle while I was in high school because it looked cool and he was going to give it away , still didn’t connect the dots; periodically , news reports questioning our governments motives and stories of a military war thousands of miles away.
Sophomore year in college we welcomed a freshman roommate in our fraternity. We hung out , had a beer or two and became fast friends , and to this day he and his wife are among our dearest friends. He was a heck of a collegiate basketball player , holding many records today and tells stories of his time with the pros.
In all that time, I didn’t know , and he didn’t share , that he lost his brother in Vietnam until 40 years later. People didn’t talk about it or couldn’t talk about it. Think about that ; carrying that burden. Those emotions subject to societal opinions , how in the world and when , are you able to heal?
What’s happened since I learned of this and attempts by many to understand and support him and our military in the past few years are numerous and it wouldn’t all fit on this page. But I need to tell you 13 of us recently met for a familial Italian dinner following the ceremony featuring the very helicopter flown by many in the military, a refurbished Huey helicopter . The sound of the rotating blades of these helicopters were the sound of hope to those expecting food to be drop-shipped or to be saved from enemy fire or the wounded to be carried to safety. The helicopter of my friends brother crashed on one of these missions and both pilots ( one was my friends brother ) died and both side gunners were thrown out of the helicopter because they were bravely defending their position , ignoring orders to strap in so they could aim their guns and fire more effectively.
With the family, the Vietnam roommate and the gunner on the very helicopter that crashed , 13 of us listened intently and reverently as we heard of the circumstances surrounding this tragedy only because the soldier was just now , 45 years later able to talk about it. It was like a solemn moment in church where one seeks answers and appeals to a higher power to make sense of things. Our soldiers need our help and support as they work through things, practice self therapy and get on with their lives
A book written by Jim Crigler , the Vietnam tent mate , called “Mission of Honor - A Moral Compass”, tells the stories and truly is an instrument of healing told by a true hero dedicated to honoring , healing and remembering our lost veterans and their families .
After 45 years , “Mission of Honor” , are the right words .
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