Bill Stancil: A veteran looks at Memorial Day


Bill Stancil


By Bill Stancil
The Billboard

Friday, May 19, 2017

A military veteran is always a military veteran, whether or not he or she was in the foxholes of a battlefield, the gun turrets of a battleship, the cockpit of a fighter plane or bomber, the operating rooms of military hospitals or served the military in any other form.

The fact that he or she wore the military uniforms of our country and served our country as part of the first line of defense in any capacity, makes them a military veteran. Memorial Day is as good a time as any to recognize their service.

Once a veteran, always a veteran, and that never changes. We are steeped in military protocol, due to our training. We honor the flag of our country and somehow, even at an advanced age, never forget our training. We tell ourselves that we could do it again if our country needed us, knowing inside ourselves that age and medical conditions would not allow it.

We fly our flags on Memorial Day and at other opportunities to celebrate and remember the sacrifices that many, many people made to keep you and me safe, day and night and to keep our country strong.

Somehow, because we are veterans, we are different. We tend to sit at attention when we are in crowds and stand at attention when we rise (unless the ravages of age and time prevent us, yet we try, anyhow). The shroud of military service never really leaves us.

My eyes still moisten every time I hear patriotic music and my mind rolls back the years to the time I spent in the U.S. Air Force. I just automatically turn my face to the space between me and Heaven, whenever I hear the drone of aircraft engines. If white contrails are floating in the sky as the planes move on, I will be up there with them if only in memory.

Monday, May 29, is Memorial Day in the United States, and that means the flags will be flying and speeches will be made. That Monday evening, some television stations will broadcast special Memorial Day programs.

There will be the playing and singing of patriotic music, and the breasts of military veterans from the very young to the very old will fill with military pride again.

Our hearts will sing along with the theme music of all of America's military services. I know that my eyes will moisten as the Air Force theme song is presented, and I will go into the wild blue yonder in memory. My mind will try to recall the words of the epic poem, "High Flight" and again, I will have "slipped the surly bonds of earth, put out my hand and touched the face of God."

I know that veterans of other military services will feel about their theme song the way I feel about mine, because they feel about America the way I feel about America.

And that's who we are. America was our mama, who raised us to love our country. The military was our daddy, who taught us respect for the uniform and the flag and how to respect the heritage of service to our country.

Celebrating military anniversaries is important. It gives us an opportunity to see the world and the blessings of our country through the eyes of the veteran. And once a veteran, always a veteran.