Wednesday, October 26, 2011

George Mindling Column 04-22-2006

The Veterans and the Bumper Stickers


While following a Michigan license plate through 776 and Toledo Blade, I happened to notice the black frame around the license plate. On the bottom in big white letters it read “Korean War Vet.” I couldn’t help but wonder if any one cares. Korean war veterans are beginning to die naturally as they reach old age. World War II vets, many of whom also served in Korea, are thinning out as they reach the stage of their lives where their children only vaguely remember the parent’s service.

I wondered if my Dad would have driven around with a license frame that said WWII Veteran? No, I’m sure he wouldn’t. In fact, he quietly poked fun at the Cold War reservists who “flag waved” as he called it, then bellyached when they get called to active duty. To him, it was something he was expected to do.

Few people knew my Dad spent just under four years in the U.S. Army during WWII. He served 21 months in combat during his 33 months of overseas duty. He was never one to talk about his experience, except in North Africa, before El Guettar Pass and his loss of innocence. He laid telephone wires for the forward artillery observers for his 105mm howitzer outfit. And every time a tank ripped them up, he laid them again.

His Company Commander later found out my Dad could type and put him in HQ battalion where his closest friend died sitting at my Dad’s typewriter. FW 190s dropped antipersonnel bombs on the HQ tents during an air raid near Nicosia, Sicily, while my dad was away driving the company jeep on a run to Division HQ. His friend was simply filling in for him.

Noncombatant. The word doesn’t fit. When you put on any of the uniforms that require the oath to defend your country and the Constitution of the United States, you know you have committed your life to your country. If your country sees fit for you to serve behind a typewriter or under a leaky fuel cell, in sub-zero temperature in the middle of the ocean watching ice form on your glove, it doesn’t matter. We served, and still do. We aren’t heroes. We are your next-door neighbors kids that used to bust your mailbox, turn the music up and harass your dog. We marched in parades and posed for photographs in front of American flags. The guy with the Korea sticker is one of us.

Will the Iraqi veterans have to drive around with bumper stickers about being a Iraq Vet fifty years from now to get anyone to care? Does anyone care now, except to wave a flag and clap about heroism? As of Friday, The Department of Defense has identified 2,380 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. Do you care? Will America care in fifty years? Let’s hope it doesn’t take another a bumper sticker.

George Mindling

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