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As I See It: For God and country

Next Monday we will observe another Memorial Day. I’m old enough to remember when it actually meant something important and special to most of the nation.

And as a retired Air Force pilot I feel a special kinship with all the men and women who have served our country in peace and in conflict.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend a week with three ex-Air Force couples we first met almost 40 years ago. We get together every other year to share the things that have happened in the intervening two years and to tell many of the same stories we have heard or told before — and no one seems to notice or care, as long as it’s not a lame joke that doesn’t bear repeating anyway.

All of us served in Southeast Asia (SEA), Germany and other areas of the world and in many parts of the United States. We talked at length about the hostile reactions we witnessed when we returned from SEA and contrasted that with the thanks and adulation rightly given to our troops serving not only in Southwest Asia, but all those who are serving.

I don’t know if it’s recognition by the current generation of the negativity of a previous generation or just the realization that we owe something to all the members of our military. In any case, it’s a welcome change in our culture.

In 1940, Winston Churchill observed, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” He was referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force pilots who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe.

While I don’t mean to compare our nation’s current security situation to that of Great Britain at the outset of World War II, I do need to point out the size of our military forces is shrinking to a point where we will be unable to physically confront the worldwide threats to our long term security — and by extension — our existence.

While our population grows, our military continues to shrink resulting in fewer and fewer citizens having any real idea what dedicating one’s life to the security of others really entails. With political leaders who think butter is far more important than bullets and who believe “butter” includes computers, Internet access, cell phones, cable TV, housing, child care, ad nauseum, is it any wonder we have another round of issues surrounding the Veteran’s Administration (VA) and its inability to provide timely medical care to all?

And we have been promised another investigation by the Executive Branch. How many of those have produced anything meaningful to date?

I know there are thousands of professionals in the VA who are doing everything they can to provide high quality and timely care to all the men and women who should be receiving the care they need and deserve. They are not the problem. As always, it is the bureaucracy behind the workers and caregivers that serves as an impediment instead of a facilitator.

Our country has seldom been able to come to grips with all the issues that confront us because we can’t get beyond ourselves. Our higher educational institutions used to be reasonably neutral in providing a balanced view of problems.

That no longer seems to be the case and the major media as a whole is far closer to a Goebbels-style propaganda machine than an effective source of unbiased news.

I know I sound rather cynical, but it seems as if we will eventually replace, “For God and Country” with “Me, myself and I.”

To my fellow veterans and current service members, I will never forget you and you will always be in my prayers.

Well, that’s the way I see it.