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In The Presence of Great Men And Women


Today I attended a luncheon in the city where I live, Highland Village, Texas, in honor of those who served our nation in the military. Actually my wife made reservations for us. The room was packed (200 plus) with military veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. The ranks were privates to one star generals. Congressman Burgess of the 26th Texas Congressional district was the master of ceremonies and honored special guest. Some of the veterans, non-active and active were dressed in their military attire. (That's me in the picture, Da Nang, South Vietnam, October 1967 getting ready to move to Con Thien in the I Corps area - about 15 miles from the DMZ).

The local mayor and his staff that planned the event, allowed every military person in attendance to give a brief history of their military service. It was a moving experience to hear the aged WWII vets describe their experiences as tail gunners on B-17 bombers and the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach. Several Vietnam veteran B-52 pilots, jet fighter pilots and helicopter pilots told of their sorties over North Vietnam and harrowing rescue missions in support of ground troops. One helicopter pilot actually flew missions in support of the 101st Airborne from which the Mel Gibson movie, We were soldiers, was made. 

When I spoke as a former United States Marine and Vietnam vet of the Tet Offensive (the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War), I commented that it was an honor for me to be in the presence of such great men and women. Others expressed the same sentiment. 

As I sat there and listened to each person of the various military branches give their account of unselfish service to our country, I could not help but think about the election two days previously and how very different our nation is from what we all thought we were fighting for. How greatly our nation has changed from what it was when the men in that room from WWII were lying in mud and water on Omaha Beach as their buddies were being blown apart by murderous fire from the Germans atop the high ground. 

One of the B-17 tail gunners related how his plane was shot down in the pacific and broke apart when it hit the water. The tail section immediately sunk and he had to kick out the plastic bubble that housed his gun in order to save himself from drowning. When he reached the surface he bumped into another crew member who was seriously wounded. He held onto him all night long to keep him from drowning. The next morning they were rescued by a Navy ship and the wounded crew member survived. 

The number of medals received by the men and women in that room would decorate several walls.  I realized I was in the company of America's finest and I felt very proud.  

God bless the  men and women who have served our nation to keep us free and especially those who did not return, but paid the ultimate price. We owe them more than we can ever repay.

Allen Barber, former United States Marine and Vietnam Vet
Semper Fi