My son, the lawyer sent me a salute for Veterans' Day, enclosing
Kipling's famous poem about Tommy Atkins, the British regular.
Herewith, my reply:
"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;"
That is a refrain that I memorized a long time ago. Funny, I don't consider
myself a real veteran. I was never in combat, serving on border duty in
Germany during the Korean War. Twenty-nine of my classmates died in
Korea. And one who was a BG had a mortar round fall on him in Viet Nam.
Four others died in the air in that war.
Otherwise, the rest of us had our harrowing experiences in training. Quite
a few hot pilots were lost in training accidents, including our top scholar. I
survived a jeep rollover, which I never told your mother about. Once
a rolling artillery barrage fell short. I shouted, "Hit the deck!" only to see
that I was the only one still standing.
An incident that I will never forget is when I had to pull a tank out of a
stream with my tank retriever. I had everyone button up while we slowly
winched the tank up the bank. I stood outside guiding the operation. If
the cable had snapped, which sometimes happens, I wouldn't be here.
Thereafter, I was afraid of nothing, and scaled mountains hand over hand
with reckless abandon! If your number is up; it's up. If not, carry on.
Every now and then, I find myself treated with respect, which I don't
deserve. "Thank you for your service," I have heard. Still, I salute when
Taps is played, indoors or out. And at ball games, I leave my cap on and
salute during the national anthem. No one says a word.
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