America’s veterans—remember them
May is important for those of us who have served in the Armed Forces. On Memorial Day, Monday of this week, we remembered those who have given their lives, but there was also Armed Forces Day, which was observed on the third Saturday, which this year was May 19th. On this day we appreciate what the military services do for our country and communities.
The Armed Forces include the combat forces of the United States: The Army, Navy and Air Force, along with the U. S. Marine Corps, project military power as needed—a mission that has existed since 1775 as America begin its fight for independence.
Also, the United States Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, has a combat mission but is also authorized to carry out law enforcement duties as part of its mission. In time of a declared war the Coast Guard would become part of the Navy.
Today’s veterans include survivors of World War II and the Korean War, as well as of the Vietnam War. They also include those who have taken part in peacekeeping operations and the wars since Vietnam—including Desert Storm and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There are no surviving veterans of World War I or earlier wars. During an earlier part of my lifetime there were still survivors back to the Civil War—all gone now.
Most veterans modestly say what they did was their duty in combat or in support of combat operations. My service was in the Vietnam War. The war lasted officially from 1955 until 1975, but my service was near the end. Most of 1970 and several months of 1971 I was at Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam, assigned to an advisory team which worked with the Vietnamese Air Force Air Training Center.
This center’s missions included pilot training in light aircraft, maintenance training, base security training and a number of other training missions as well as English Language training for those students going on to technical schools.
After my return I was privileged to help the family of a repatriated prisoner of war as part of Project Homecoming. I still consider it one of the most rewarding contributions I made as a service member and would readily do it again. We may not realize it, but military families serve and sacrifice in many ways.
I thank veterans whenever I can, especially World War II and Korean War veterans, and regard Vietnam veterans as my brothers and sisters. Many veterans have suffered as a result of their time in military uniform. Some were wounded, some suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and some even suffer from diseases they were exposed to in combat areas. I was one of the fortunate ones who came home healthy.
Especially I note that the oldest veterans among us have a limited amount of time left and we need to appreciate them while they are still with us. We should also appreciate the youngest of our veterans for their willingness to serve and sacrifice as necessary. Four of my five sons have chosen to serve in uniform and two are on active duty as I write this.
I am privileged to be an Air Force veteran as well as an Air Force Reserve retiree. My military service began in January of 1960 in the New Mexico Air National Guard. My commissioned service began in 1965. I retired with 31 years of service, active and reserve.
When I was growing up there were veterans everywhere, but America has changed. Now only a relatively small percentage of our population has seen military service. I like to think they are among America’s best men and women.
I am honored to be among them. I did my duty, and my only regret is that I wasn’t able to do more.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.