Letters to the Editor

A veteran's haunting memories of forgotten victory

TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE

It is most appropriate that our nation pauses yearly to observe Veterans Day. We remember and honor military personnel, both past and present.

Veterans are no different from their non-serving neighbors, except for one thing: they carried our flag into battle or stood ready to do so.

Veterans, in addition, are ordinary and yet extraordinary human beings. They offered some of their most vital years in the service of their country. They sacrificed, moreover, their ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

And that today is what I clearly recall, remembering my comrades who shared with me a common fate, a common danger. For seven months during the Korean War, I flew as an Air Force dorsal gunner on a Douglas B26 light bomber -- 34 night-time combat missions over hostile North Korean targets. There I learned on that tortured peninsula that Armageddon was too immense for my solitary understanding; my immediate thoughts and the trauma too powerless against unhappiness so huge.

For those of us who had the luck to survive, there is no one moment in that war, nor one most wretched memory. Time for me, however, seemed to go out of the spinning world. The rest of my tour was crammed with fear, boredom, fatigue and filth taking its place.

We remember today all those who have come before us and given the greatest gift to our American nation -- their lives. Their duty, their honor and their lives are precious gifts and must be given to the future of our country and their families. And to those who didn't return, they remain in perpetual springtime -- forever young -- and a part of us with them always.

George Staudt, American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24

Bradenton

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