The Old Army Hat

By Roy Bale
Sun Columnist

Sadly, our World War2 veterans are dwindling swiftly. Too swiftly, to suit me. You and I have the highest regards for all veterans, but The Great War is something special to me. We were forced to enter that war, we didn't start it, it was an honorable and honest and necessary war. It was the last war America tried to win. Its impossible to win when you play only defense. The odds are kinda stacked against you when you can't shoot until you are shot at. I was in the service during the Korean war, and our morons in Washington D.C. went for a stalemate instead of a win. We could have annihilated North Korea in two days time. But instead, we fought a long and costly political stalemate.
Well, Korea was never officially declared a “war.” The government refers to it as a “conflict.” Conflict or war, the American soldiers were just as dead when they were killed in battle. In 1952, my Battalion from Army basic training at Fort Bliss Texas went directly to Korea after completing advanced basic training. I was one of a select few that was sent to White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico for Guided Missile school and service.. Two of my buddies from basic were KIA. Some were injured, a few maimed and lost limbs, most came home in one piece.
Like most of you, I have the utmost respect and admiration for our service men and women, and of all veterans, dead or alive, from WW2 to today's youth serving in the military. The vets are the ones that's made America a free nation, not the scoundrels in Washington. My WW2 veteran friends are dwindling fast. One of them, my domino playing buddy, died recently T.J. was full of life to the end. We all loved to listen to his stories about serving as a Medic in the Navy during the Great War. So long, old friend, you are missed.
Recently I was watching the TV show, Larry's Country Diner. A few of you saw that show. Bill Anderson told a very moving true story of a WW2 veteran, an old farmer from Tennessee, who came home in one piece. Six of his buddies did not come home. He was so impacted by the war, losing his buddies, the pride in serving his country in such a time of dire need, he wore his Army hat wherever he went. As the years went by, he and the hat aged together, and he proudly wore that old Army hat.
Then along came a grandson, who as a young teenager, was embarrassed whenever his grandfather wore that old Army hat. Especially during the anti-war years, when the young folks demonstrated against war, and service people. They snickered and whispered and pointed whenever the old veteran was seen wearing his old Army hat. The grandson dreaded being seen with his granpa.
One day granpa said “I heard they have built a WW2 monument in Washington, D.C. Will someone take me there? I want to visit it.” So the trip was arranged, and the grandson went along with the family to Washington to visit the monument. “You're not going to take that old Army hat, are you,” the grandson asked his granpa. Of course he took it, and proudly walked up to the monument with it on. Two older men promptly saluted the old veteran. “Thank you for your service to our country,” they said. The old veteran swelled with pride.
In a group nearby was a young boy. He came over to talk with the old veteran. He said, “Mister, will you have your picture taken with me, and may I wear your hat? My father was killed in Iraq, and I'd be proud to wear your hat. Will you, mister?”
So they stood side by side for the picture taking, the old man standing ramrod straight, bareheaded.. A crowd of onlookers had gathered, and there was not a dry eye in the crowd. Then the young boy tried to give the hat back to the old man, the old veteran said, “Son, you keep that hat. Your father gave his life, and it’s a small token to give you my old Army hat. You're a soldier now, every soldier needs an Army hat. Wear it with pride.”
If you know a veteran from WW2, please thank him or her for their service to our country. Really, every veteran deserves our thanks, but the WW2 vets. are dwindling fast, and will all be gone way too soon. Us old Korean war vets. will be around for a while longer. Then it will be the Vietnam vets disappearing, and etc. etc, until Armageddon.

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