It’s November 14, 1965. Gunfire and acrid smoke fills the air. Wounded American soldiers speckle the dense terrain. Chaos ensues in the La Drang Valley of the Republic of Vietnam. MedEvacs are ordered to stop flying in. Still, a lone Huey helicopter emerges along the grey skyline. It’s a U.S. Air Force pilot but he’s not MedEvac. Captain Ed W. Freeman manages to fly into the danger zone on “14 separate rescue missions and transports an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers” to safety … at least so the story is told of the Battle of La Drang.
Freeman, who later received the Medal of Honor, reportedly died in 2008 at age 80, in Boise, Idaho. Yet, to this day his story still lives on.
In the military community we revere, remember, and recognize our veterans.
But what happens when the ceremonies are past and the coins are placed in a display box? How do we continue to honor them?
Have you ever wondered what you can do for them while they’re alive?
Many servicemembers I’ve interviewed often say they wouldn’t be who they are nor be able to do what they do if it wasn’t for those who had come before. It grieves them too, how our Vietnam and Korean War veterans were treated when they returned home.
Organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion and nationwide memorials remember our veterans, but do you think we need to do more?
Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are great but holidays shouldn’t act as reminders to care for our own.
Let's not wait until they pass to honor or remember them. Let’s do it by buying them lunch and giving up that converted parking space at the grocery store, movie theater and ball game. Don't just salute them when they walk by, stop and talk to them, seek them out and listen to their stories.
Maybe we should officially reinstate the oral tradition of passing on stories -- keep them alive instead of only confining bravery to pen and paper.
Don’t stop at volunteering to serve them in nursing homes, either.
Introduce them to you kids. Write them letters, watch movies with them, bring them groceries ... invest time. These are the actions that give life to their coin collections -- the memories we make with them are the true treasure-chest.
Let’s never forget this generation that also includes World War I, World War II, Pearl Harbor survivors and the Doolittle Raiders, among others. What about you, can you add to this list?
Further, do you know of a veteran-hero that you want the world to know about? Please share their stories.