I am a Vietnam-era veteran. I love God and my country and believe in American freedom—the same freedom that so many take for granted. For me, it all begins with the Second Amendment and the right to protect myself and my family, to shoot and collect firearms, and to hunt—and to share my knowledge and pass on America’s firearms traditions with anyone who will listen.
I joined the Army in December 1971 and was medically retired in January 1987 due to a spinal injury following a parachute jump in 1986. Oddly, the PLF (parachute landing fall) was fine, but the next morning my left leg didn’t work. I guess hitting the DZ (drop zone) at 16 fps with 70-plus pounds of kit takes a toll. I spent a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and am now severely disabled, but at least I’m here to pen this. Waking up in the morning is a bonus.
Like a lot of veterans, I have a bad case of “survivor’s guilt.” I go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and on the wall I see the names of young men I went to high school with in Pennsylvania. I appreciate the Veterans Day sentiment, but I think of how the heroes are all the guys who didn’t come back (and gals now, too). I did my duty and I am just a survivor. Like Maj. Dick Winters of “Band of Brothers” TV-series fame told his grandson, “I’m no hero, but I was honored to be in the company of them.” "For me, it all begins with the Second Amendment and the right to protect myself and my family, to shoot and collect firearms, and to hunt ..."
I thank God that I don’t have PTSD. All I have is a blown-out spine and 80 percent hearing loss from a concussion grenade that was dropped near me in 1972. Guns, shooting and hunting are my passions, but I struggle to hunt because my back won’t allow me to sit comfortably for an extended period—or to ever drag a deer out of the woods.
The reality is that the United States has more combat veterans than every other nation. This means we also have multitudes of disabled young male and female veterans who need to be better served by the Veteran's Administration (VA). Now that we have a new president-elect, maybe they will not have to fight so hard with faceless VA bureaucrats, who mostly never served, to be compensated for their injuries.
We veterans make up a very large percentage of gun owners, concealed carry permit holders and, yes, hunters. We are a big part of the reason that "America's Rifle" is now the AR-15. And we support the NRA.
My wish for Veteran’s Day is for Americans to stop what they’re doing for just a moment to reflect. Think about those who fought and continue to serve and fight for freedom. Think about those who gave all and who likely would do it all over again—if they could.