Veterans’ Day is getting huge. It has gone from a relatively quiet, private and somber occasion before Sept. 11, 2001, to a true national day of remembrance with many hours of programming on the cable networks and an ever-expanding roster of events throughout the land.
As a veteran myself, I’m grateful for the public acknowledgment of the 49 months I gave to the service of my country, but I must admit to feeling like a bit of a pretender.
There are several veterans in my family. My father served as a Seabee with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during World War II and my brother Ron did a rough Navy tour of Vietnam, patrolling that country’s treacherous rivers on a relatively small ship. I, on the other hand, spent my service time with the Air Force in Texas, Illinois and California. While my brother was sporadically tossing grenades over the side of his ship to keep the enemy at bay, I was just as likely to be tracking down a missing piece of equipment in an effort to get one of our cargo planes in the air.
Veterans who have been in combat form tighter bonds with their comrades than those of us whose action was well to the rear. That’s only natural, given the brutal nature of war where your life literally depends on those around you. Nevertheless, I find myself from time to time wondering what’s happened to some of my old service buddies.
Whatever happened to my Aircraft Maintenance Officers Course classmates Boyd Lintecum, Jonathan Leach, Greg Frey, Doug Metcalf, Phil O’Brien or Jonathan Ryan? Or some of my colleagues at Travis Air Force Base: Roger Abbey, Chuck Killelea, Bill Seil, George Luedke, Ken Good, Bill Kanter or Arilee Hightower? I’d also like to know where some of my old neighbors from the Rosebank Apartments are: Chris Mangold, Billy Champoux, Terry Washington, Bob Heller or Alex Rodriguez.
If you know any of these folks, tell them I’m thinking of them on this Veterans’ Day.
Photo: Jack and Elsie Lehmer in 1944. (Walter B. Lehmer collection)