Veterans Day always takes my memories back more than seven decades. My high school graduation was in June 1942, just in time for almost every classmate to go into uniform. Still only 16, I was envious as hell of the older guys who got to serve immediately. I had to wait a whole year before joining the Navy.
During WW II, I served on a troop ship in the Pacific area, and ashore with an advanced Navy team in the Philippine Campaign. We vets came home to parades, flags and patriotic speeches. After the war, I went to college free on the GI Bill, and stayed in the Naval Reserve.
In 1951, my Naval Reserve aircraft carrier air group was called up for active duty for the Korean War. When we returned after two years, there were no homecoming patriotic parades for that quickly-forgotten conflict. The only greetings I heard back in the old neighborhood were clueless friends asking why the hell they hadn’t seen me around lately.
It took me years to figure it out, but in the cold light of history, we should realize the Korean War and all wars since have been no-win, national disasters. The deepest tragedy is that those conflicts took many thousands of young American lives, and it’s still happening today.
During the past 15 frustrating years, the Middle East misadventures haven’t cost as many young Americans as were lost during WWII. However, just a few days ago, the combat death of one American soldier, M/Sgt Josh Wheeler, continues to remind us of the terrible waste of war.
The current mess has so far wasted billions of dollars and devastated our nation’s economy, a continuing frustration that won’t end any time soon. So, what does this elderly vet of past wars ponder on Veterans Day 2015? First, it’s absolutely appropriate to pause to honor those who fought and died in the service of their nation in all of our wars.
Further, I can still feel proud on this November day of remembrance that I served. However, in the cold light of reality, I pray there will soon be a total halt to sacrificing young American lives and wasting national resources in endless wars