Hopefully you were already aware, but today is Veterans Day.

Hopefully you were already aware, but today is Veterans Day.

I’ve already read at least one history of Veterans Day printed here, and probably more will follow (which is a good thing), so I thought today I would instead dust off part of an old column I wrote a couple of years ago.

That portion of it touched on the myriad of reasons people pledge their lives to the defense of the country, our home. It isn’t always glorious, if military service can ever be called such anyway.

My grandfather fought the imperial Japanese in the Pacific as a U.S. Marine during World War II. His reason for enlisting? His girlfriend dumped him. Since that fickle young lady later became my grandmother, I guess they patched things up.

One local gentleman I know also saw action in the Pacific as a Marine. The reason he joined the Corps was because he knew he would be sure to wind up in the Pacific. The Japanese, you see, had captured his dad, a civilian contractor, and he was going to help get him back. Or at least wreak some revenge.

Another veteran I have the honor of being acquainted with saw the military as a professional career and was married and had a family when he was deployed to Korea, where he saw some blood and death before he himself was grievously wounded in an incident that emotionally haunts him to this day.

A Vietnam War veteran I always enjoy conversing with when I see him enlisted in the Air Force after flunking out of college and needing something to do with himself. He was later shot down in a helicopter crash that cost the life of a very close friend. Though he survived, he spent days in an enemy-infested jungle, living off of bugs and whatever else he could find before he was eventually discovered by a friendly patrol that had infiltrated in for another mission.

One of my uncles didn’t enlist, but was drafted, and saw combat in Vietnam. He did his duty and served honorably. And he made it home alive. Several of his friends did not.

Another one of my uncles went with a friend to the local recruitment office to join the Marines. The Vietnam War hadn’t quite heated up yet, and I doubt they had even heard much, if anything, about it. They were mostly just bored. However, the Marine recruiter was out to lunch. But the kind Navy recruiter said the boys were welcome to sit and wait in his office. “Oh, and while you’re waiting, have you heard about what the Navy has to offer?” My uncle and his friend joined the Navy that day. Another uncle soon entered the same branch of service. For a time — and against regulations more or less enforced since the Sullivan brothers tragedy of World War II — my uncles even served together on the same aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Coral Sea.

About 10 years later, my dad, the youngest, followed his older brothers into the Navy. He wanted to “see the world” but had shore duty his entire enlistment. 

I believe my cousin was looking for some extra cash when he enlisted in the National Guard. He didn’t realize at the time that he would end up in Iraq. I don’t think that would have changed anything anyway.

My younger brother wanted to continue on our family’s short naval tradition when he signed up for the Navy.

That decision may have been easier in that he was also a little unsure about college at the time.

These guys all had different reasons for initially finding themselves in the U.S. military. But that doesn’t take anything away from their service. And that goes for all American military veterans, of all wars and of peacetime.

I envy your distinction. It actually means something, whether you realize it — or feel that way — or not.

Thank you.

Wes Franklin is serves on the Newton County Historical Society Board of Directors. He is also a staff writer for the Neosho Daily News. He can be reached at 658-8443.