By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
Veterans are those former Soldiers who have moved on to other duties, whether due to retirement, changing priorities, career needs and sometimes dwindling health. Rarely will Soldiers move on to the next stage of their lives if their missions have not been completed and all are totally dedicated to the tenet of the Soldier’s Creed, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
I was reminded of many of those Soldierly characteristics by two recent events: one was the Hardin County Veterans Tribute Sunday and the other was a retirement ceremony. Both events honored veterans – one for all veterans and the other for a specific veteran – but they shared many similarities.
In his remarks Sunday, Maj. Gen. David Mann, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, reminded the audience that due to the Army’s downsizing, there would probably be many former Soldiers looking for jobs. He spoke of the Soldiers’ work ethic, what good team players and team builders they are and how extensive their skills and experiences are. But he also said, most of them wouldn’t put any of those things on their resumes, because most Soldiers don’t see themselves as anything special. They follow orders, they complete their missions and they rarely whine about what it may take to get that job done.
As a journalist, I have found that to be exactly true, even when interviewing Soldiers who have accomplished heroic feats, saving the lives of others, dashing into harm’s way without thought for their own safety. Most will say they just did their jobs and most deflect the term “hero.”
In fact, I’ve come to believe that those former Soldiers who boast about their accomplishments (not to be confused with those who love to share their war stories, because the focus is different) are generally not being entirely truthful. At the very least, they embellish liberally.
True Soldiers don’t like to talk about what they have seen in battle or themselves. I have found it almost impossible to prize loose what honors have been bestowed on them or even if any exist. One Soldier who had earned three Purple Hearts didn’t want an interview and I only learned about the decorations from a third party; he never volunteered the information. Even with some arm twisting, he wanted the story to be about his crew, not himself.
I found the same was true about the special retiree who was being honored at her departure ceremony. She was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for her hours of service, her combat tours and her service even to the president of the United States.
Although she couldn’t brag about her many accomplishments, she nevertheless contributed to Soldiers’ safety every day of her military career.
A four-legged warrior, her name is Mandy and she is a military working dog certified in patrol and explosive detection. Her nose is so sensitive, she alerted one day in Iraq on a vehicle at a checkpoint. After a thorough inspection and finding no explosives, Soldiers learned the truck had passed through a city on the previous day where bombings had occurred; enough of the smoke lingered on the vehicle that Mandy still smelled it a day later.
While I would never equate a human sacrifice with those made by Mandy, she still embodied the Soldier’s Creed; she always responded to the call to duty and her last handler said she would still work today if called upon – although she is 70 in doggie years. She never failed to complete the missions she was given and did them all with a wagging tail. Even though her age shows in her graying coat and limping gait, Mandy’s biggest problem will be learning to shed her duty uniform, relax and not go to work every day.
That’s a syndrome I’m familiar with since I live with a veteran myself. He likes to say he spent 22 years in Uncle Sam’s Army and another 10 years in the Lord’s Army as a pastor. He’s having a hard time learning to relax and stay retired, even though his health isn’t what it used to be.
I can only join the speakers who helped dedicate the Veterans Tribute and say to all our veterans: “Thank you for your service.”
Few know what it cost them and they’ll never tell you.