As we celebrate July 4th, military veterans from Miami County have points of view that range from anger and disappointment to boisterous patriotism. All are proud of their service and have a strong love of country.
• World War II: Staff Sgt. Harry Christy, a member of the Field Artillery of General Patton’s Third Army (1942-1945), fought at the Battle of the Bulge and served at Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany, in getting those prisoners of war home at the end of the war. Christy says, “I think some Americans don’t know what happened in World War II. There are consequences that would have occurred had we not won. We had a job to do, and we finished it. We can’t get anything finished anymore. Politics plays a big part in this: instead of trying to get anything done, politicians choose to disagree with each other, and we can’t win wars. And it’s a shame we can’t get good, honest people to run for office.
“I’m proud of what I did and that I got a chance to serve my country. And I’m glad Edison State is recognizing Korean War veterans on Nov. 10, because they did a great job and can be proud of what they did.”
• Korean War: Staff Sgt. Walt Felver (1951-53, U.S. Army) says, “I went over to Korea as a tank mechanic. They didn’t need a mechanic, so they put me in as a tanker. I went to school for five days to learn what tanking was all about. On the sixth day, I was sent to the front (north of the 38th parallel) as a tank loader. We ended up in the Mongonde Valley and stayed there about a month. We then went back to a safe area in South Korea to regroup, retrain and get rest. From there, we went to Kodgo Island and guarded prisoners for one month. Then we boarded an LST for a North Korea beach landing. Lots of scrimmages there. And it was back to the western side of Korea where I was in a tank on top of a mountain and got my discharge notice. I felt good about my service while I was there, but not so good when I came home. I was down at the American Legion, and someone said, ‘Where you been?’ That struck me wrong, and I didn’t go to the Legion for a while. As for today, I agree with Christy, and those people in Washington need to quit being so damn contrary.”
• Vietnam War Era: Second Class Petty Officer Ted Jones served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1965-1969, “worked in 24 hours of light and 24 hours of darkness in the Arctic and all of it during the winter season.” While serving in the Atlantic, he helped “save some lives, fought some shipboard fires, and searched for missing people at sea.” Always on the alert and prepared for when he might be needed on the coasts of southeast Asia, he served on the USCGC Westwind, the USCG Search and Rescue Group at Cape May, the USCG Point Franklin, and the USCG Light Ship Five Fathom. Jones says, “God bless all those that sail upon the sea… .”
• Gulf War/Cold War: Chief Petty Officer Mitchell Fogle served in the U.S. Navy from 1969-1971 and from 1974-1994. The CEO of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum in Troy, Fogle served onboard the command ship USS LaSalle AGF-3 in the Persian Gulf and was an instructor at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Fogle indicates, “Freedom is not free. Our independence as a nation began on July 4th, and this freedom continues to come at a high cost by those who choose to enlist in our military. It’s freedom through sacrifice.”
• Iraq War: Combat medic and Specialist/E-4, Tristan Weis, served in the U.S. Army from 2002-2006. The president of the board of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, Weis’s family members have always served. “I feel like nearly my entire family has worn a uniform to protect our nation.”
July 4th is “a sober reminder of the sacrifices service members have made in the birth and continued freedom of our nation.” After his deployment in Iraq, Weis recalls a July 4th celebration where “the voices in the crowd began to blur into inaudible sounds, and my heart started to beat faster. The smell of gunpowder and the echoes of the fireworks all put me in a different place.”
• Bosnia, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan: Command Sgt. Major Jeffrey A. Stapleton served in the U.S. Army from 1976-2002 and now is Executive Director of Miami County Veterans Services. In that role he supports veterans who come to him with issues from PTSD to benefits and compensation claims. Stapleton asserts his belief in “God, the same God in which my ancestors believed,” the U.S. Constitution, and the family unit. He recalls the sacred oath to which he swore: “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and indicates “I will defend that oath at all costs.”
As we continue to live in a world filled with hostility where groups strive to force their social, political and/or religious beliefs on others, it is important that we remember these words of our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights … .
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or [email protected]