Note from JWR: The following Armistice Day piece comes to us from USMC Captain Gary Bourland, who is one of my regular www.AnySoldier.com contacts. He is stationed near Fallujah, Iraq. OBTW, if you don’t already send letters and cards through the AnySoldier.com’s web page contact list, I highly recommend it. Just one word of warning: It is habit forming.
Although many of you already display your strong support for the military, this year, stop for just a couple minutes and really think what Veterans day is about. Think about the families that were affected and the lives it changed. Somewhere there is a quite veteran that probably goes unrecognized most of the time but inside themselves on Veterans Day, “they” will know that the day is special.
When I was a Platoon Commander and had about 45 Marines under my command we occasionally had a few that had disciplinary problems. That year I got a little creative and instead of prosecuting them under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) the military legal system, I decided to offer them another option that wouldn’t reflect on their records. I directed them along with myself to meet me at 0600 in their USMC Service Alpha uniform (Green coat & green pants like worn by Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men”) in front of the barracks. Not going into details, they took the offer. We drove a quiet hot hour to a Veteran’s Hospital. Clenching Marine bumper stickers and posters and American flags. We had no agenda. We looked each other over and began our mission, No time limit, no schedule, about surprising someone. The nurses immediately took us to see some rough and tuff warriors and told us you must see General Richardson. As you entered his conservative room there was a tired warrior with oxygen in his nose, family picture of his grandkids on his nightstand and the Stars & Stripes on the wall, orientated correctly. The nurse said “General, the Marines are here”. He said “You guys here to get me outta here?” I said “Yep I got your shoes let’s GO!” He couldn’t move from his bed but he enjoyed the offer. Along with him and several other gentlemen the Marines sat and mainly listened as warriors from Normandy on through the wars told their story but surprisingly were so interested in the young Marine’s story and reinforced how proud they were of the young men sitting with them in their impeccable uniforms. I could barely sit there and watch as these gentlemen hooked to all kinds of contraptions had a glow in their face and tried to sit up in their beds to shake young warriors hands. I felt pretty dang humble. One gentleman in a wheel chair dressed in his Sundays best asked one of the Marines, “where does a rusty old Marine find one of those Eagle Globe and Anchor tie clasps”? (These are worn with this type of uniform by Marines). The Marine looked down at his own tie clasp and said you mean like this one, as he clasped it on the gentleman’s tie. The guy just through his arms around the Marine and gave him a big bear hug. Money can’t buy you feelings like that.
All of the Marines left the hospital a little different that day. It was a quiet ride back to the base and no one really said anything but everyone was thinking the same thing. We were all very proud to be associated with the gentlemen we just visited with and very appreciative that “they” did what they did for their country. The other 364 days of the year will probably be the same as any other day as the nurse stated “these guys don’t get many visitors”, but that Veterans Day was different for all of us.
If you don’t participate or witness any parades or anything this year for Veterans Day, take a look and the Stars & Stripes in your neighborhood and remember that blood has been shed for our flag time and time again and when the Nation calls on its service members we will answer, so help us God. Semper Fidelis, – Capt. Gary Bourland