I’ve found a way to jury rig my laptop computer to my system to replace my misbehaving desktop machine. So I’m able to resume posting to my blog during the interim before my desktop is repaired on Friday.
Every month during normal times, my American Legion post members get together for lunch a few days before our monthly meeting. We always go to Mission BBQ, a local restaurant that emphasizes military membership décor with photos of soldiers, sailors, and Marines covering every empty wall space. Even a picture of me in uniform is there. Because of the pandemic lockdown, we have not held meetings or met for lunch for more than a year. But the post has scheduled its first post-pandemic meeting tomorrow. Hence, our gathering at Mission BBQ last Friday.
I was surprised at how moved I was to see again all those familiar faces and spend time again with veterans—men and women who know what it’s like to put your life on the line for your country and for your fellow combatants. We are becoming a vanishing breed. There are fewer of us every year. And those of us who engaged in combat are fewer still. And we’re aging. One member who was present is a retired Marine colonel over a hundred years old. He sat next to a retired navy corpsman who is almost a hundred.
I am unique among the American Legion members because I was a civilian during my time in combat. I had completed my military service before I went on the battlefield. Granted, I was always under cover as an enlisted man in the unit I was supporting. My job was helping on the battlefield with intelligence gained by intercepting enemy radio communications. Between 1962 and 1975, because I was so good at my job and spoke the three languages of Vietnam (Vietnamese, Chinese, and French), I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S. While the troops I worked with found my presence as a civilian under cover as one of them very funny, they also accepted me as a fellow troop.
When I get together with other veterans, the feeling of brotherhood I felt with the troops I was supporting on the battlefield comes to life. I’m profoundly grateful that the lockdown is ending so I can be with my brothers again.