Today comes another Veteran’s Day. Many of us recall a grandfather who served or an uncle who endured. But, as Pres. Obama, noted, the same service we grew up hearing about occurs today, everyday. The 13 who died at Ft. Hood exemplify the thousands who have endured in this generation’s two wars.
CW2 (Ret) Cahill was killed at the age of 62. Retired, he came back to Ft. Hood to serve those deploying and returning. When I went to Iraq in 2005, many of those appearing with me at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina were retirees who volunteered to come back to active service and lend a hand.
After retiring as a major with service in the National Guard, CPT Gaffaney persisted for three years to return to the Guard as a psychiatric nurse, his civilian occupation. Hampered by a hearing deficit, he pushed to serve at this time of need. He wore down the Army and finally returned for a second career as a Reserve officer. When I reported to Ft. Jackson in 2005, we had one Lieutenant-Colonel, who pushed and pushed for two weeks to be sent to Iraq. He had diabetes. He swore that his meds could be obtained in Iraq. But, the medical folks at Ft. Jackson did not believe him and would not let him go.
When I was in Iraq, I went on a mission to visit some significant Iraqi officials. On that convoy was a young female NCO. She had graduated from college right after 9/11 with an engineering degree. She joined the Army as an enlisted person and became an intelligence analyst, probably a very good one. Here she was going outside the wire to collect intelligence. She could have been anywhere that day, but she chose to be in Iraq, risking IED’s and more to collect critical information first hand. .
When I reported to Ft. Jackson in 2005, some 20-30 of my fellow soldiers were retirees who volunteered to come back and serve as Civil Affairs officers and NCO’s.
Pres. Obama said: "You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Viet Nam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many graduates who have served — all of us — every single American – – must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who’ve come before."
The large group of us, some 100 of us, were sent to California after Ft. Jackson. We were to marry up with our Civil Affairs units and conduct train. We had seven "full bird" Colonels in our group. A sharp, able bunch. The Civil Affairs brigade called them to a meeting. The brigade told the Colonels, " we have some good news for you, we do not need you and you can go home." The Colonels responded, "no, you called us from our civilian jobs, you must take us. We are here to serve and we will serve." One or two had contacts at the Pentagon. They pressured the Civil Affairs Brigade to take them and put them to work. All seven served their tours with distinction.
Pres. Obama: “We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.”
Those of us who reported to Ft. Jackson in 2005 formed a bond that lasted throughout our twelve month deployment. Near the very end, in the midst of our two week departure for home, a brave, gallant First Sergeant was killed. Losing one of us was a kick in the gut. Soldiers I admired blamed themselves, for nothing.
But, I know:
Pres. Obama: ". . . here is what you must know: Your loved ones endure throughout the life of our nation. Their memory wil be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life’s work is our security, and the freedom that we all too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — that is their legacy.”
Somewhere there is a town that is tranquil, a flag unfurled, and Americans smile because there are men and women like CW2 (Ret) Cahill, CPT Gaffany and 1SGT Saenz.