Yesterday while driving around the greater L.A. area a friend asked me about my military experience. He said you know veteran’s day is coming up, and I wonder if most people truly understand what and who a veteran is? I told him that is a great question, and it prompted me to explain my answer to that question.
Veterans are men and women who wear the uniform(s) of our country to stand between freedom and unjust power, to defend the liberties we hold dear, and to promote peace around the world. They are fathers, mothers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, teachers, athletes, entertainers, business owners, political leaders, and the list goes on. Veteran…it’s a title that speaks of courage and sacrifice.
I was one of the last young men in CA. to be drafted into the Vietnam War/Conflict (use whatever label you choose) in 1972. However, I served in a Navy aircraft squadron (VA-25) as a “plane captain” which is a fancy name for someone who is support personnel for pilots. While overseas aboard Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger (CVA-61) my job was to prepare my squadrons aircraft for flight during the war, and to be on deck and ready when my pilot and plane returned from its mission, and preparing for the next launch.
Working on top of an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Imagine being on a deck the size of a football field with dozens of jet airplanes coming and going…all in the middle of an ocean, day or night. The risks are always present of being run over, sucked up an intake, and blown over the side, high levels of noise, fuel and/or missile explosions, and more.
Ironically much of this work was performed by young men (women were not allowed to do this work during the Vietnam Era) who were trained to make it look easier than it really is. In reality it is the precision and teamwork that makes the organized chaos operation of an aircraft mission look like a work of beauty.
And away from the war and other duties of military personnel we got a chance to travel to some of the most exotic, and remote places on earth. Although I’m a Californian… my experiences give me a rich perspective of the world. So for me that’s what and who a Veteran is. Happy Veterans Day!