Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veteran's (Remembrance) Day Talk 2013

            Good morning. I’m David Krueger. The last time I was asked to speak here was exactly 10 years ago. I wonder if I really have anything to say that anyone else would find interesting and not put you all to sleep.
          As I look out over the group gathered here today I wonder why are you all here? For some it’s because there were some donuts and coffee and a chance to visit with old friends. For those of you who are in school you’re here because it’s better than sitting in class, but it might not be. You’ll have to be the judge of that when I’m done speaking.
          We’re actually here because our ancestors back in 1918 decided it was time to quit fighting. An armistice was declared at the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month in 1918. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. You see WWI was thought to be the war that would end all wars.
          We know now that it wasn’t and we have become cynical in that we don’t believe that there will ever be a time when there won’t be wars.
          November 11th became a legal holiday back in 1938 which meant that banks and other Federal institutions were closed. It was to be a time for ‘proper and widespread observance of the anniversary of the Armistice 20 years earlier. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a proclamation that named the administrator of Veteran’s Affairs as the chairman of a Veteran’s National Day Committee.  At the same time the name “armistice” was dropped and “Veterans” was used in its place.
          Now you have a little bit of information on the history of Veteran’s Day but we haven’t answered the question why we’re here today.
          Since I’m not able to speak for any of you I can only explain why I come every year.
          In March of 1968 I enlisted in the U.S. Army. Like everyone else I was sworn in and then began all the fun of being in the armed forces. We hurried out to the airport and then we waited. We did a lot of hurrying up and waiting it seemed.
          I took my basic training in Fort Lewis, Washington. I never understood why they sent us there. Fort Leonard Wood must have been full. I was there 9 weeks and then spent another 9 weeks in Fort Ord, California where I learned how to operate radios.  My next stop was Fort Gordon, Georgia. That’s right I flew from one end of the country to another. In Fort Ord I learned Morse code and how to send and receive messages using a lot of dits and dots and so forth. In Georgia they refreshed our memories about Morse code and then taught us how to use typewriters, teletypes they called them, to send and receive messages.
          Both Fort Ord and Fort Gordon were overflowing with men and women who had either been drafted into the Army or had enlisted. Enlisted people were called regular army and the draftees were U.S.  Anyone who served can probably give you their service number that was assigned to them when they entered the military. RA16983646 was mine.
          I mentioned that there was a lot of hurrying up and waiting, well, after I completed my training in Georgia I waited 2 months for my orders to come down.
          Everyone from my class was sent to Viet Nam…except me. When my orders came down I was sent to Boeblingen, West Germany, Panzer Kaserne. It had been the headquarters for Rommel in WWII.
          Rumor had it that his ghosts wandered the motor pools. I think he walked up the ladder of my Deuce and a half one night.
          When I arrived at Panzer Kaserne I was assigned to the radio unit that was responsible for providing secure radio communications for the Seventh Army in Germany. In the beginning every communication was sent by using Morse code but after a year they went all radio teletype communication, still secure. That meant that all the messages sent were encrypted.
          That also meant that I had to be checked out before I could do that work because it required a top secret security clearance.  Eventually I was cleared for that work and began to work the night shift, 6 PM to 6 AM every other day. That meant no KP or guard duty. I liked that.
          I spent 27 months in Germany finishing my duty at Badenerhof Kaserne in Heilbonn, Germany. I never went to Viet Nam mainly because so many guys were requesting to go back there to finish their time because they didn’t like the spit and polish in Europe.
          So, that’s what I did in the Army but it doesn’t explain why you and I take time to stop our normal routines on the 11th day of the 11th month and come together here in this gym.
          I come here to be reminded, to remember, those who’ve gone ahead of me and those who’re serving us today all over the world. I come to remember those who went to war in Viet Nam and came home in a coffin or came home injured and maybe today still carry some of that shrapnel somewhere in their bodies.
          We take our freedoms so much for granted as if it’s our right to be free. My friends, men and women have fought hard for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. And there are men and women still fighting today to help others be free.
          My life was never in much danger but I had friends whose lives were. Their lives were changed by their experiences in places that were nothing like back home.
          At good friends, it’s not just those men and women who I stop and remember today but their families who they were separated from for long periods of time. Wives were left with the job of packing things up when they had to change duty stations. Mothers and fathers, wives, and sons and daughters prayed that their family member would come back to them in one piece, some did and some didn’t. That’s why we’re here today, to remember all these people and the sacrifices they made so we’re able to enjoy our freedom to do pretty much anything we want.
          Today, I am remembering my friends who served with me; I remembering our son, Ben, who served 5 years in the USN; I remembering our granddaughter who is serving 6 years in the USAF, right now at McGuire AFB, New Jersey.

          And I’m sure some of you have family members you’re remembering today, too. That’s why we’re all here today, to remember.

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