We celebrate our country’s 243 birthday this week! Whether everyone wants to recognize the fact or not, this birthday (and its predecessors) all stem from the actions of our veterans and fighting folk!
From our very beginning, our homeland has been embroiled in a number of wars, police actions, fights and melees that have needed a staunch cadre of fighting men and women to establish us, reunite us and protect us. Without these warriors (later called veterans) we wouldn’t be the republic we are today!
As a child, growing up outside Atlanta, I remember parades, big dinners and fireworks as the main themes of July 4. As I grew older, I began to recognize that all this good stuff had not come without a price—a price our military had to pay. I remember the first TV I ever saw dealt with soldiers and POWs coming home from the Korean War.
As the Korean War ended, my older brother became a lieutenant in the Army and did most of his time (he was a dentist) in West Germany. One of my brother-in-laws also served in the Army in the Korean-Era. Some of my friends had fathers who served in WWII. My best friend’s mother and father served in the Navy and in the SPARS.
The military and our veterans were highly respected in those days (the early 1950s). Most of us thought we would serve in some form of the Armed Forces when we were old enough. The Fourth of July, each year, only reinforced this kind of thinking.
I remember in high school when the Cuban Missile Crisis that a group of us young fools considered going to Miami and getting a boat to go to Cuba to fight. We were either too smart or too lazy to follow through with this nutty idea.
When I got to Jacksonville State (College then, University later), we all had to be members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps or ROTC. I really liked it and joined the Ranger Company to get some additional training. We did a lot of exercises and ran through heavily wooded Calhoun County area acting out our militaristic dreams.
I left JSU and promptly got a Draft notice right round the Fourth of July, 1966. Within two weeks I was in basic training at Fort Benning Georgia in the heat of the summer. Basic was tough, but it wasn’t so bad. In late July of 1967, I was in Vietnam and my life changed forever.
In case you don’t remember, this was the beginning of a lot of anti-war protests, draft-card burning and running off to Canada to avoid serving one’s country. After my tour was up and I came home, these anti-patriotic events were still going on. A little later, Jane Fonda did what many of us consider a treasonous act and gave aid and comfort to North Vietnam.
Almost from my homecoming, I have been involved with Veteran activities, sometimes to my social detriment. But with the arrival of this 4th, about 50 years after Vietnam occurred, I am proud to have served and I am proud of our United States. Did we always do the right things? No. Do we always do the right things now? No. But we should all take time to thank God Almighty and our veterans that we still have this great (if slightly flawed) Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Happy Birthday, USA.
May God continue to bless our homeland, our military, our Veterans, our first responders (law enforcers, firefighters, EMTS and teachers) and may God always bless YOU!
Gerald “Joe” Stahlkuppe is a combat Army veteran of the Vietnam War. An ordained clergyman, public speaker and author of several books, he lives with his wife in Gardendale.
Questions or veterans issues you would like to see addressed in the column can be directed to Stahlkuppe at P.O. Box 849, Gardendale, AL 35071 or emailed to email@example.com.