Combat…


me wanting to be a sailor-with my brother Frank
Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The young boy on the left is me proudly and with as much imitation as I could muster-standing next to my brother Frank.
I can tell by the stripes on his sleeve that he was just a ‘seaman apprentice’,which means he had to just come home from boot camp.

I dont really know my exact age. It was a time of pureness and the era where boys my age absorbed every thing that was going on around them.
Even in this photograph-I did not know my brother Frank very well. I have very vague memories of him being home through our earlier life with him being in high school and me being in elementery…we did’nt do too many things together big brother little brother.
But he sure was something when he came home from boots and on his shoulder was the huge green sea bag that carried all he’d ever need in life as a sea going man.
I was happier than at Christmas time when my brother pulled out the hat for me-and a handfull of patches to sew on my sleeves.

At this age in my life I was still innocent to more bigger things in life. Our family lived on a quaint street in Charleston West Virginia and the biggest worry was beating Darla Cowan in hop-scotch then knowing that on the other side of the world the Viet Nam war was really just beginning to bring a major change to our innocence.

It could’nt have been much later then this photograph was taken that a television show began. It starred Vic Morrow as Sgt.Chip Saunders. As my boyhood pal Randy and I would immitate the great missions Sgt.Saunders had gone on to rid the world of nazis and kamakazee fighters-we would have to take turns being Sgt.Chip Saunders.
It could’nt have been much longer after this photograph was taken that we all witnessed John F. Kennedy assasinated (over and over)..as television took us there and the scenes pushed our patriotic spirit to tears, just like 9/11.

I did’nt know much about Viet Nam until our family moved to Washington DC.
In West Virginia television was limited power -technology had not advanced enough to send clear signals across the tops of the hills. So , it was’nt until we had television full time from the nations capital city that I became aware of Viet Nam.

Things had changed from living in Charleston and the peace of the 1950’s. In our new home area I came to learn that there was a war going on and it was’nt like playing Sgt.Saunders and pretending there were troops of nazis in the woods behind your house.
Every night on television news there was a moment when the days casualties were shown in their old high school photographs-all lined up in rows. Then we would see the lines of caskets on the tarmac in Dover…to pay respects these lost are due,unlike what we are unable to do today.
Turmiol of sorts was moving through the country. Some young men fled their home land to the safety of Canada to keep from going to Viet Nam.
Black men who had returned from the war and had already served a tour of thankless duty returned to the same segregation they had left when they were sent to the same suffering their fellow troops were sent to.
I can still see all of the civil rights marches in my memory-how ‘fellow Americans’ were treated by being herded by dogs and hosed away with the waters from fire hoses…all by ‘fellow Americans’.
Our television showed the scenes from rice pads in Viet Nam and white and black were there-soldiers in combat. And after those scenes it was the way those black veterans were treated along with thier families and neighbors-the terror of not being able to understand.
When the television would show those photographs each evening-white and black were there.
I have a friend-he was born in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona. His family were taken there before he was born-a family born in America,but because of the attacks in Pearl Harbor the families of American born Japanese were herded up and locked behind fences-the possesions they earned through their lives were taken. My friend was born in a prison,more less.
He went to Viet Nam.

It’s very hard to imagine all of the ways men sacrificed themselves to become a Veteran.
Lieutenant Leon Crane is one who comes to mind-his greatest feat in service was to survive an airplane going down in the mountains of Alaska-the mission was to find the easiest route to Hiroshima and to test the airplanes carburators ability to take the cold altitudes.
Lt. Crane survived the crash and spent 84 days wading through waste deep snow in sub-zero climates to find himself to safety. He had bailed out of the plane with out his gloves-but managed to keep a pack of matches.
And then on the other page are the Navajo code talkers who led our troops through safety by the use of a Native American tongue that no white man or Japanese could decode. Some of these things done by this kind of Veteran should be on the front page.

It is really hard to define a Veteran. There are so many kinds and from so many walks of life-where we can understand that some have endured more than others but yet they all have a sense of brotherhood between all-brothers and sisters…how many ever think about the woman who went to the various wars-the nurses in Korea and Viet Nam,and now woman serving in combat in Iraq.

A Veteran is somebody very important and very special. It’s a shame there are so many homeless Veterans and so many in need of help from the land that sends them to defend it.
I recall so well the way the hippies jeered and cursed the returning Viet Nam Veterans…and yet most of them had been drafted and taken away from their own innocence.
The truth how the Veterans of World War One were treated and the events of Hooverville…along the Antacostia River in Washington DC.

It may be you are like the rest of us and feel that war is wrong and it should never be. To be really honest-there are many who are in the front zones of war and many in the back parts too who have the same feeling. People choose to enlist in military fields for various reasons-in todays war in Iraq there are many who are there just for the hope of becoming a citizen of the United States.
Thats what its all about-wanting freedom.
You should thank a Veteran today,you should thank one everyday.

One Response to “Combat…”

  1. B.J. Says:

    You look really cute standing next to Dad. Hopefully, things work out with the VA. It’s a long haul, but there’s still hope.

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