"Veteran's Day Hand Salute
I always wanted to be a soldier. My earliest memory as a child was to be "an Army man". I recall hearing stories from my great uncle Emmett H. "Bub" Baker. Uncle "Bub" use to tell stories about WWI to me and my little sister Gayle when he visited with us. He served in the 80th Infantry Division and fought in France. He never reflected too much on the horrors of that war. He just did his duty as it saw it to do.
And there were friends of my Dad who fought in WWII. They didn't talk much at all, but you could tell that they knew it was right for them to serve. My Dad didn't fight in WWII. He was a doctor in Lakeside, Virginia just outside of Richmond in Henrico County. He tried to join the Navy as a medical officer, but he had glaucoma and wore glasses. They turned him down, so he went to the Army. Initially they said they would take him, glaucoma and all, but soon he was denied entrance because he was one of the few doctors left in Lakeside to care for the civilian population. He never said so, but I think he regretted not being able to go. He wanted to be "all in" like others.
As I grew up, I attended Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) in elementary school, something I asked my parent to let me do. When I went to high school, I asked to go Benedictine High School, a military school in Richmond. And then it was the Virginia Military Institute after that. I was not conflicted about wanting to be a soldier; I planned early.
This is not the case with everyone that you meet. Some were drafted in. Others fell on the idea as they thought about affording college later or learning a skill. Yet others simply wanted to serve, to do their part. Still others just wanted to do what they knew was in their guts to do. Like me, they always knew. I've never met a one, regardless of how they entered or how they were motivated, that doesn't deserve our highest praise for honorable service. You see, drafted or not, officer or enlisted, rich or poor, man or woman, short-timer or lifer, they were in a place to give the "last full measure of devotion". Those were Lincoln's words. Good words too. And not just sacrificing for country; sometimes that wasn't even a factor that they cared about. Rather, their willingness to be "all in' was for their buddy in the foxhole next to them, on the deck, or on their wing.
When I go to the annual reunion with guys and gals I served with in the 1st Infantry Division-The Big Red One- and see those I fought with, we don't talk too much about the "our war"; whether Vietnam, or the latest one in the Middle East. We talk about families, friends, life. You see, we know all about death and those who didn't come back. Think about it the next time you thank a veteran. It's not just about what they did- It's about what they were willing to do.
Did I say I always wanted to be "an Army man"? Hand salute to all my brother and sister veterans.
Best,[signature graphic: Scott Lingamfelter]"