I was honored again this year to participate in the Veterans Day parade in Columbia, Maryland, where I live. It took place on Sunday, November 7. I used advanced age as an excuse to ride this year. Last year, I had a hard time keeping up with the younger veterans, and I was forced to admit that walking is no longer easy for me. I walk with a slight limp as a result of a botched knee replacement surgery in 2015. Getting around is not my bag.
That said, I take as much pride in my veteran status as I ever did, and being part of the parade is both an honor and a privilege. I am unusual among veterans in that my time in combat came after I had finished my military service and was operating in Vietnam as civilian under cover as military. I was comfortable in the three languages of Vietnam (Vietnamese, Chinese, and French) and supported troops on the battlefield (both army and Marine) with information about the enemy derived the intercept and exploitation of his radio communications. I was so good at my job that I ended up spending more time in Vietnam than in the U.S. between 1962 and 1975 when I escaped under fire as Saigon fell. One of the ironies of my life is that the Veterans of Foreign Wars won’t admit me to its ranks because during my time in combat abroad, I was a civilian.
But nothing in my life matches the brotherhood I feel with other veterans. We are brothers in arms, willing to put our lives on the line for each other. The strongest bond I have ever felt is with the men who fought by my side. We men don’t like to use the word “love” for the emotions we feel toward other men, but my love for my fellow combatants is the strongest love I have ever felt.
So every year, I look forward to the Veterans Day parade. I am a proud marcher, even if I have to ride. And my love for my brothers in arms is as strong as it ever was. May we march together for many more years.