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This Old Hat: A Veterans Day Story, Part Three

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the last of three parts written by local author and Vietnam veteran Warren Robinson of Lenox in observance of Veterans Day this month.

By WARREN ROBINSON
Special to the Tifton Grapevine

John 15:13 in our bible says, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends.”

Fast forward to the present day.  My boys are not whiners or mired in self-pity. They are, however, proud of their service when they were willing to lay down their lives for their country, and many did just that, even when it was popular not to do so.

I overheard one of my boys recently telling his friend bout his experience with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. He was only 18 years old at the time. He jumped out of a Huey helicopter into what seemed like a quiet landing zone. His platoon moved out toward a tree line about 300 yards away and proceeded cautiously into the jungle. 

A short time later, the boy was hit in the head and immediately fell to the ground, seemingly dead. He said he could not move or speak but he was aware of what was happening around him, and he could hear his buddies talking to each other. His buddies thought he was dead, but they refused to leave him there in the jungle and carried his body to a dust-off chopper for extraction.The medics thought he was dead and focused their attention on other wounded boys.

Arriving at the aid station, medical personnel thought he was dead, also, but one young nurse recognized a sign of life in him, and because of that, he survived his wounds.  

Today, he wears a black patch over his eye, the right side of his head is mangled, and he has gone through constant pain and suffering as a result of his wounds. I was struck with amazement and admiration as he said, “If I were put in the same circumstances again, I would make the same decision to serve my country, even knowing what the outcome would be.”

Time has healed many of the wounds suffered 50 years ago, and America has indeed come to recognize the bravery, suffering and patriotism of these young men as they shared this life-changing experience. They ate together, slept together, laughed and cried together, fought together and sometimes died together.

I wish they all could have received the honor and respect they should have received when they returned home, but for those still living, it is truly sometimes overwhelming. My brave boys have finally been given the respect and honor they deserve.

I often wonder if America learned any lessons from this tragedy. I also wonder why God allowed it to happen, but I know He worked His will in the lives of my boys. Many were brought to Christ and learned to trust in Him, even in the midst of terrible evil.  

Now, as I look around America, I see hats of a new generation of warrior. They represent different wars and battlegrounds, Iraq and Afghanistan, but the young men wearing them haven’t changed. They are all young, strong and include the finest men America can produce.  

America has been blessed by God in order to represent Him in the world by being a force for good and freedom. There will always be another foe to face, another battle to fight, and thank God, there will be another American soldier to fight it.

Yes, I’m just an old hat, but I will never be separated from my boys. Whenever you hear someone complain about America or disrespect the flag or our national anthem, remind them of my boys and what they did to give another generation of Americans the freedom we often just take for granted.
  
See you around town!

Signed,

This Old Hat

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