By Sean Dietrich
Carl, 92, U.S. Army: “During the war, we had everyone pulling for us at home, and we knew it, too. Even movie stars were rooting for the troops. Those were different times.
“As soldiers, there were moments, between the fighting, over in Europe, that we talked about personal things, stuff you don’t never tell nobody else. There’s a kind of bond between men who know they’re going to die, a deep one. I just couldn’t describe it.”
Phillip, 86, U.S. Air Force: “Shoot, I didn’t even know what the Korean conflict was when I joined up. But, well, wherever they send you, you gotta go. I wasn’t too worried about it. In hindsight, I should’a been. Those were the worst years of my entire life.”
Johnny, 67, U.S. Army: “When I enlisted, I was only nineteen, man. I wasn’t trying to be a good American. All I cared about was girls. Guys in uniforms got girls. “At nineteen, you think you’re just gonna do your time in the military, get out, and carry on with your life. But Vietnam screwed everything up. “When I came back, I couldn’t sleep indoors. I was twenty-four, spending the night in my mama’s backyard—with a rifle. “Anti-war protestors used to sneak up on us vets and bang on trash can lids just to scare us. It was a bad time. But now that I’m older, it just makes me love my country more, you know?” Jason, 55, U.S. Marine Corps: “This country’s been nothing but good to me. I was lucky, I never saw any real fighting. My hats off to the men and women who put it all on the line every day. “When I got out, the first thing I did was grow my hair long. Then I went to college, and did the whole university thing. Now I teach high-school English. I’ve been all over the world. It may not be popular to say it, but: I believe this is the nicest country. The greatest, even.” William, 94, U.S. Army Air Corps: “You wanna know how I feel about being an American? Hell son, I dunno… “Well, when I met my wife, I was wearing a uniform, how’s that for American? I got shot while I’s in uniform—hit me right here. Wore a uniform for my kids’ weddings, graduations… When I die, I’m gonna be buried in it, laying right next to my wife. “Uniform’s in the closet, my daughter had it wrapped in plastic, I can show it to you if you want. It’s about as American as apple-damn-pie.” I’m sure it is, sir. But it’s nothing compared to you.
I hope you have a Happy Fourth of July.