I watched part of a Veterans Day program hosted by Michael Reagan, the adopted son of President Reagan. In the program, President Reagan was speaking at the site of the D-Day Invasion. He said something to the effect that “If we forget what we did, we will never know who we are.”
I sense that a large number of our fellow citizens of the United States are totally ignorant of what their ancestors did to earn their freedom and have no appreciation for their ancestors or the freedom they enjoy.
Many of the professors who taught the current crop of young teachers were Anti-Vietnam War, draft dodgers and have a slanted view of American history and the role of the military and their sacrifices in preserving our freedom. The task of educating future generations of American students falls on veterans. If they don’t tell the story, sadly, it will not be told.
During the recent dedication of a military history museum in Taylors, South Carolina, a 92-year old World War II U.S. Marine Corps veteran told the sad story of a public-school history class that he gave a tour of a military History Museum. The teacher had a brief bio of the Marine and introduced him to the students as a veteran of World War Eleven.
Veterans Day reminds me of friends who survived the Vietnam War but lost virtually everything of value and meaning in their lives.
One of the saddest stories I know happened to a classmate from Clemson named Charles C. Calhoun. Charlie was commissioned in the Infantry through the Clemson Army ROTC Program. He loved the Army, but his wife hated it. She threatened to divorce him if he did not get out and become a civilian. He left the career he loved and got a job in textiles to keep his family together. After a couple of years, his wife divorced him anyway.
I next saw Charley at Fort Benning, Georgia. He had remarried a girl who loved the Army as much as Charley did. He said he was finally very happy with a family compatible with his chosen career.
The next time I heard of Charlie, he had been the Operations officer for a Battalion that was engaged in some fierce combat and a platoon in a Company that had allegedly committed atrocities in a village. As Operations officer for the Battalion, Major Charles Calhoun had never been to the village and had only flown within a few miles of it in a helicopter.
A Lieutenant Calley was the official scapegoat for the incident, however, the Battalion commander was killed in action and no accusations or charges were ever filed against Calhoun, however, his career was destroyed. He was kept in a “holding pattern,” and never given another assignment. The model officer who loved the Army and had dedicated his life to serving his country was forced to leave his beloved Army and return to textiles that had been his major at Clemson.
When I remember my friend C.C. Calhoun on this Veterans Day, I recall the closing statement by a silver haired Colonel as our class on Pearl Harbor concluded at the Army Command and General Staff College:
“Always remember, when you take your oath of office and put on the uniform of your nation, you are subject at any time to be called upon to become a sacrificial lamb.”
After graduation, every member of that class served in Vietnam. One became a POW. Several were killed in action and others wounded.