Letter From an Old Soldier

Happy Fourth of July!  I hope you’re enjoying time off with family and friends to celebrate our nation’s freedom.

With that in mind, I’d like to share with you a note my husband received today from a fellow soldier and friend from Vietnam days.

“As each year’s Fourth arrives, I am again reminded of the privilege I enjoyed to serve in our Army with you guys.  Band concerts, fireworks and other celebratory events are appreciated, but being fortunate enough to experience serving in our Army and treasuring the honor of knowing and serving with y’all tops any other Fourth considerations, far and away.  Yes, America and her freedoms are the true foundation of understanding the Fourth, but serving in our Army gives it the special meaning for me.”

These guys know a thing or two about freedom.  In September, 1966, John led the Tiger Force and two platoons of B Co. in a raid on a North Vietnamese prison camp high in the mountains west of Tuy Hoa.  They freed 27 South Vietnamese prisoners, one of whom weighed less than 80 lbs. and didn’t survive the descent down the mountain.  Here are four of the freed prisoners.  No one on that mission will ever forget it. The prisoners were so overjoyed with their freedom they couldn’t keep quiet during the night, even though silence was critical in avoiding the North Vietnamese.

I will never fully understand the bonds of brotherhood forged in the jungles of Vietnam.

(Not ever dreaming of a reunion 50 years later!)

Tiger Force Reunion 2016.

I will never know the extent of the sacrifices made, the fears that were faced and for some death itself.  But I have listened to the stories of these men.  Some stories have made me laugh, like the time my husband wrote to the Schlitz Beer Company.

“To Whom it May Concern:

Your advertisement says

‘When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer!’

Gentlemen, The Tiger Force is out of beer.”

A few months later, a palette of approximately 50 cases of Schlitz beer arrived at their 101st Airborne base camp.

My husband John on the right.

Other stories have caused me to choke back tears.  I have stood quietly beside my husband at the Wall as his fingers traced the names of friends and he told me about each one.

On this day, I am particularly grateful for all those in every branch of service who have defended our country’s freedom.  May we be quick to listen to their stories, to give honor, and, most of all, to say “thank you”.

D – Day Thoughts

Our visit to the museum at The Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden a couple of years ago transported me to the year 1944-1945 when the world was at war and the powers of good and evil hung precariously in the balance. The museum pulls no punches, graphically showing the sinister and devastating impact on people and history by Adolph Hitler and his deranged cronies. Photograph after photograph chronicle the human misery incurred from the rise to the fall of the Third Reich. The early photographs of Hitler and his ascent to power show tens of thousands of ordinary smiling people, saluting him with unabashed patriotism and admiration. We kept asking ourselves how that could happen, especially after they had to have known of the terrible atrocities committed at the numerous concentration camps spread throughout Germany and Austria. The photographs taken at the end of the war of those who once smiled and saluted now showed the despair of disillusionment.

Beneath Hitler’s beautiful resort compound were carved many eerie tunnels, such as the one below, connecting each structure.

Hitler's bunker

Hitler’s bunker

What a difference a year made (1944-1945).

" The Fuhrer Has Fallen"

The year before at this time we walked on the Normandy landing beaches. We saw the ensignia below not only at the Normandy museums, but also gratefully displayed in the towns’ restaurants and taverns. This D-Day, we find ourselves in Berchtesgarden, and see the ensignia again.

101st Airborne Division.

101st Airborne Division.

 

The 101st paratroopers who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 also liberated Berchtesgaden and seized Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, a symbol of his power, less than a year later.

(As an aside, that ensignia hangs on my den wall as my husband John had the privilege of serving with the same division in Vietnam.)

On this day, we are grateful for all those who participated in ending the terror and misery inflicted upon mankind by Hitler and his Third Reich.

The brave young soldiers who fought that day are few and fading.

Shadow soldier

But the memory of their heroism need not fade.  If you are fortunate to know one of them, thank them.  Listen to their stories.  But above all, thank them.

D – Day Thoughts

Our visit to the museum at The Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden a couple of years ago transported me to the year 1944-1945 when the world was at war and the powers of good and evil hung precariously in the balance. The museum pulls no punches, graphically showing the sinister and devastating impact on people and history by Adolph Hitler and his deranged cronies. Photograph after photograph chronicle the human misery incurred from the rise to the fall of the Third Reich. The early photographs of Hitler and his ascent to power show tens of thousands of ordinary smiling people, saluting him with unabashed patriotism and admiration. We kept asking ourselves how that could happen, especially after they had to have known of the terrible atrocities committed at the numerous concentration camps spread throughout Germany and Austria. The photographs taken at the end of the war of those who once smiled and saluted now showed the despair of disillusionment.

Beneath Hitler’s beautiful resort compound were carved many eerie tunnels, such as the one below, connecting each structure.

Hitler's bunker

Hitler’s bunker

What a difference a year made (1944-1945).

" The Fuhrer Has Fallen"

The year before at this time we walked on the Normandy landing beaches. We saw the ensignia below not only at the Normandy museums, but also gratefully displayed in the towns’ restaurants and taverns. This D-Day, we find ourselves in Berchtesgarden, and see the ensignia again.

101st Airborne Division.

101st Airborne Division.

 

The 101st paratroopers who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 also liberated Berchtesgaden and seized Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, a symbol of his power, less than a year later.

(As an aside, that ensignia hangs on my den wall as my husband John had the privilege of serving with the same division in Vietnam.)

On this day, we are grateful for all those who participated in ending the terror and misery inflicted upon mankind by Hitler and his Third Reich.

The brave young soldiers who fought that day are few and fading.

Shadow soldier

But the memory of their heroism need not fade.  If you are fortunate to know one of them, thank them.  Listen to their stories.  But above all, thank them.

D-Day: A New Gratitude

The closest I ever came to understanding D-Day was watching “Saving Private Ryan”.

Until last week.

Even the movie made me glad that I did not have to wade ashore on Omaha Beach.

It was not until I stood on the vast beach with nowhere to hide and looked up at the very visible remains of the German fortifications that I became truly thankful for those who did.

Omaha Beach

It made Tom Hanks’ line in the movie, “You can either die here, or up there” make sense.

When looking through the openings of the concrete and steel German bunkers…

…you don’t have to have any military training to realize just how vulnerable our soldiers were.

There was nowhere for them to go but straight into the German line of defense.

By the thousands, many of them are buried just a hilltop away in a beautiful and meticulously kept cemetery of simple white crosses and Stars of David.

One cannot leave there without awe of the enormity of those few days.

This day will always have a deeper meaning for me.