There have been several good friends of mine writing what Veteran’s Day means to them today for this blog. I know Nick is super-busy so I didn’t bother in asking him to write something, but as always he went above and beyond and did a video that is better than writing a post. He didn’t do it for bouhammer.com but I am going to embed it here because it goes with the theme and quite frankly, it just friggen awesome. So here you go, Nick from Rangerup.com explaining the difference between the media’s perception of Veterans and reality.
I feel tremendously privileged to be a veteran. By that, I mean that I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to serve, and to serve in the capacities that I have. I’m not special. There are millions like me. There are millions of others who have never had the opportunity to serve. Those who wanted to, perhaps even tried to serve, and were denied for one reason or another. It’s an honor to have earned the right to know that I am a veteran. It’s an honor to feel included in the meaning of today.
It’s an honor to have taken part in history, to watch it unfold around me and to try to influence its outcome by my efforts. What others read about… or never realized was happening… I got to participate in. I was lucky in that I had assignments that brought me closer to that. We most often do not get to choose the role that we wind up in when we’re deployed. I’m grateful that I wound up in roles that I don’t regret and I’ll never forget. I got to do and see things that were so incredible, some of it even sounds unbelievable. I was lucky. I never got a scratch from the Taliban.
It’s an honor to have walked with heroes. In August of 2007, in the Tagab Valley of Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, then-Major Bill Myer was in the commander’s seat of his Humvee with his small column of Afghan National Police (ANP) in their Ranger pickups moving along a road at the base of a mountainous ridge. When his column was attacked from the high ground with automatic weapons, the ANP could not remain in the thin-skinned vehicles. They dismounted and took cover in the ditches along the road. The Afghans were not exactly organized in their response, but they did not break and run.
Major Myer dismounted from his vehicle, under fire, rallied and gathered up the ANP… and attacked. He attacked, up a mountain, into the fire; and the ANP followed him. Their attack broke the ambush and the Taliban fled. Major Myer and his ANP chased them until they lost their trail in a village… where they were served tea.
I’ve seen Bill Myer scared. You could tell when he was scared because he’d be grinning uncontrollably. No matter how much he was grinning, he was doing what he knew to be the best thing for him to do under the circumstances. He never failed to act. He never froze. He never panicked, and he never hid. I’ll never forget serving with him. It is an honor to have served with him. For the action I did my best to briefly describe above, he was awarded the Bronze Star with V device.
That same month, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Brian O’Neill was moving down a road, again the lone American vehicle with a small column of ANP. On a narrow road running across a steep hillside, the column was taken under fire with machine guns and RPG’s. The ANP dismounted, took cover and returned fire. SFC O’Neill dismounted and worked to help organize the ANP response. One ANP RPG gunner moved forward and took aim with his rocket launcher. When he fired, the round malfunctioned. The explosive warhead detonated in the tube, leaving his shattered body in the middle of the road but miraculously not killing him.
SFC O’Neill broke cover and ran out onto the fire-swept road to the ANP soldier’s crumpled body. He quickly assessed the man’s wounds and dragged him towards the cover of the Humvee, where he could be treated. SFC O’Neill’s quick treatment of life-threatening injuries saved not only the soldier’s life, but his left arm as well. SFC O’Neill knew that he had to get the man to a hospital as quickly as possible. After applying a tourniquet and treating a sucking chest wound, he fought to gain fire superiority and withdraw from the kill zone. He had to get the ANP, at least the drivers, to get back into the thin-skinned Rangers and move with him out of the kill zone. SFC O’Neill extracted his entire force without any further casualties and got the severely wounded Afghan soldier to the MEDEVAC point in time to save his life. SFC O’Neill was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with V device for his actions that day.
SFC O’Neill would be the first to tell you that if never gets shot at again, he’d be perfectly happy. He’d tell you that he was scared. Again, no matter how scared he was, he always did what he needed to be done. He never broke. He never ran. He never hid. There is no one I’d rather have by my side in any such situation. Led by a grinning Bill Myer.
Those are two of the heroes that I have had the privilege to work with. On Veterans Day, I remember that I am honored to have walked with men and women who are some of the finest, bravest, most honorable people alive. I have gotten to see men tested to the limits of their training and personalities, and I have seen those who have shone under the harshest of lights.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, has been and remains an honor and a privilege.
Old Blue is another retired Senior NCO from the Army like Bouhammer and the two have been friends for about eight years, ever since Old Blue was on the heels of Bouhammer in a deployment to Afghanistan and started writing award-winning blogs. Old Blue has multiple tours both embedded with Afghan Forces and at the COIN Academy in Kabul. They have have been co-writers on blogs together and have both done their best to educate America on what it is like to serve in Afghanistan along-side Afghan Security Forces.
My dear friend and fellow Veteran Bouhammer, asked me to express what Veterans Day means to me.
Well, in a word; Blessed.
God blessed me to be born American. So it, Veterans Day, means everything. No Veterans, no freedom. Period. A heavy price / sacrifice was paid for me to live the life I have been blessed to live. Three square meals a day (save for most of Ranger School, which was a self imposed condition); safety; opportunity to pursue multiple levels of education; an affluent lifestyle which in the wake of human history is ridiculously high. We live better than kings & queens of old could ever dream of. The freedoms which provide that level of lifestyle now enable our fellow citizens to worry about the most absurd things. You’re welcome, thank a Vet for the host of 1st World Problems that plague you.
My Father, a great man who I am blessed beyond words to have, faithfully served our Nation for 21 years. His own contribution to our nation include being a West Point Graduate; Airborne Ranger; Viet Nam veteran & career Field Artillery Officer. His devotion to the defense of our freedom, which I appreciate beyond words, is emblematic of millions of others who likewise faithfully served our Nation. My father’s service influenced and motivated me to do the same, to serve the nation which gave me so much. Growing up as an Army brat made me aware of the effort it takes, the constant effort, to defend our freedom.
My own service, meager as it was, made me all the more appreciative of those who serve and the sacrifices they make on a daily basis; putting their own personal freedoms aside to serve so that our personal freedoms are protected. I am now appreciative of everything. Beyond that, my appreciation is now trans-generational as I appreciate that my kids have the same opportunities I have, thanks to our Veterans.
Threats remain, both foreign and domestic, to our freedoms as they always have; just the names of the threats have changed. Same stuff; different day. Which is why we need to remain ever watchful and appreciative of those who watch and have watched over us. An incalculable price has been paid on my behalf, and for yours, by the everyday sacrifices they, the American Veteran, make. With no sheepdog, the flock is in mortal danger. A profound and heartfelt thank you to our Veterans for being the Sheepdog, keeping the Wolf at bay, for 239 years and counting. May God bless them and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Shard and Bouhammer go back 23 years to the days they served together in the same platoon and enjoying their knees in the breeze together. They have been close friends every since and visit with each other any time they can.
A good friend of mine, multi-million album selling singer Matt Goss, said it best to me one day over 4 years ago. “There would be no Memorial Day or Independence Day without Veteran’s Day”. Truer words have never been spoken. If there weren’t Veterans to thank, then none of them would have given their lives for this country, hence Memorial Day. Without Veterans we would not have ever obtained out country’s freedom in order to have independence.
Which means that every single person, US Citizen or not, that has ever enjoyed the freedoms, benefits and luxuries of living in America owes a thanks to all Veterans that have ever served honorably. Veteran’s from Washington’s Army to DOD today and beyond. Without Veteran’s ensuring our security and freedoms we would be speaking the Queen’s English, German, Russian or who knows what.
When Matt and I worked out a special Veteran’s Day event at his show in Las Vegas with the support from Caesar’s Entertainment Group in 2011, it was the goal to try and start a movement to make Veteran’s Day as important in this country as it is Canada, United Kingdom and many other countries in Europe. In many other countries, the holiday originally known as Armistice Day is a major event, unlike here in the USA. If any country should have it be a major event, it is the USA which has been in more distinct wars in the last 200+ years than any other country. Our Veterans have volunteered to step into the line of fire, and shed blood when doing so more than any others. Our Veterans have stood guard in places like Kosovo, Sinai, the Korean DMZ, Berlin, Kuwait, Djibouti, Philippines, and all over the world ready for everything. All the while never having to fire a round in anger but serving as ambassadors for peace and freedom.
So Matt and I both felt and still do today that the holiday and event should be more than a free meal or 10% off at your favorite store. In Australia the kids and grandkids of veterans march in parades at their schools wearing the medals of their parents and relatives. Scouts dress up and the whole focus is on the Veterans and those that were willing to sacrifice their lives for the country and of course the ones that ended up having to do so.
St. Patty’s Day is all about drinking as is New Years, Christmas is all about the shopping and gifts, Halloween is all about the candy and dressing up, Independence Day is all about putting on the token flag shirt and going to watch fireworks. So let me ask you, when you think of Veteran’s Day, what is it about?
Lately to me is seems like it is all about a list of restaurants and other businesses offering free food and services from a limited list of choices and sadly that seems to be it. There are no poppies worn, traditions of taking out the elders who are vets for a quality family time, etc. How can we be such a proud country, a country of unlimited yellow ribbon magnets and “USA, USA” chants when an enemy like Bin Laden is killed or National Anthems and flyovers before major sporting events, but we are not a country that recognizes every single bit of that would not be possible if it were not for the Veterans that provided the ability to do all of these things. How soon we forget the pride and respect our country had in late 2001-2003.
So what do I think Veteran’s Day should mean to this county? I think it should mean everything and be the most important holiday in our calendar year.
The Video says it all, but to summarize…Nick, Tom and the boys from RangerUp along with Matt B. and the Article15 crew along with Tim Kennedy, and a couple of MoH recipients thrown in for good measure are looking to make a movie to shame all movies.
They need your help to get it over the goal line.
I even heard JJ Abrams is giving up and running off to the Peace Corps now*