When is the last time you thanked a veteran for serving and sacrificing? This is the time of year when we, as Americans, are given an opportunity to show our gratitude to those who have served and are currently serving in our military. America was founded upon the lives of those who fought for the freedoms that we partake of every day. We have been in numerous wars and have lost many soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors. And it’s not just the ones who serve or who have served that sacrifice. The families and loved ones sacrifice also.
Each veteran has a story to tell, whether he or she fought overseas or remained to protect the homeland. Each signed the anticipated “dotted line” and knew there was a chance they would be called away and not make it back home.
The American military has been met with honor and appreciation when returning from all wars since King George’s War (1744-1748). All except the veterans of the Vietnam War. These veterans, like all veterans, did as they were told – going overseas to fight a war at the behest of the president and Congress. When they returned, they were met with disdain, anger and physical abuse such as being spat on and kicked and beaten. Some chose to move overseas and are still there to this day because of the lack of respect from the country they diligently served. For the ones who returned, they have struggled to gain the respect they rightfully deserve.
Richard Maury joined the Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam. He explained how every unit was responsible for helping the local community’s orphanages, hospitals and other civilian facilities. Maury recounted how a young Vietnamese mother was carrying her baby and decided to use herself and her child as suicide bombers. Maury has post-traumatic stress disorder and can easily empathize with fellow military servicemen and women. He gives credit to his wife for standing by him and loving him throughout the healing process. He, along with countless others, suffers from the effects of Agent Orange – the toxic chemical the U.S. government used to kill the foliage in the jungles. This chemical caused a lot of health issues with the troops – including cancer.
Maury has dedicated much of his life to helping other veterans. He is a member of several veterans’ associations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Association of Vietnam Veterans of America. While living in Colorado, Maury helped to bury over 20 Vietnam veterans a week due to suicide. Many of these veterans were loners. Maury believes there is great opportunity within Hope Mills to grow awareness of veterans’ needs.
James Clark joined the Army in 1968 and was shot at while circling over Saigon while landing for his first tour. He was on a small jet that carried 260 people. He was warned to “get out fast” and go straight to the bunker. He served two tours in Vietnam – 26 months total.
Clark also has health issues caused by Agent Orange. He said, “I’ve had 15 things wrong with me at one time or another, and every one of them is Agent Orange-related.”
Although he has dementia, Clark can vividly remember the details of his time served. When asked if he lost any of his comrades, he broke down in tears. He was proud to serve. His father served, and his son followed in his footsteps. As a collector of American Eagle statues, his home is beautifully decorated with numerous statues with the American symbol wrapped in the U.S. Flag. Clark is also a member of the VFW.
Michael Grilley was a military planner during the Gulf War. He served one tour as a soldier and the rest as a civilian as a government contractor. Grilley retired as a Sgt. 1st Class. He trained soldiers before they headed to war. He made sure that they knew what to do, how to do it and when to do it. He spoke of how enemy fire was not the only thing that kept a soldier from coming home, but how failure to respect equipment took lives. “My fear was that if I (wouldn’t) train you properly and you leave here and not be prepared to go to battle,” Grilley said.
He knew he was the last one to give instruction before the soldiers left, and he took that to heart. “I wore that uniform with pride. Every time I put it on, I was proud,” Grilley said. He, Maury and Clark are on the board for Heroes Homecoming in Hope Mills, which raises awareness of Vietnam veterans, those declared missing in action and prisoners of war and explains the importance of respecting the sacrifices that the military make daily. The initiative also helps organize placement for the “Missing Man” tables on display throughout the community and so much more. Grilley is also a member of the VFW.
Whether you agree with war or not, veterans deserve our respect. They don’t just sacrifice time. They sacrifice health. They sacrifice limbs. Some sacrifice their lives. Many never made it home because they were declared missing in action or were taken as prisoners of war.
When you see Old Glory waving in the breeze or spot an eagle flying high, remember that those symbols represent the men and women who have given so much for us to enjoy our freedoms. On this Veteran’s Day, thank a veteran. He or she would appreciate it.
It was an honor to speak with these gentlemen – these soldiers who provided a way for my family and myself to be able to do what I do every day … live in freedom.