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SACRIFICE WITH HONOR

Last night my mind wandered through my memories of 1968, when I was a member of the best Chopper unit in ‘Nam; the 57th Assault Helicopter Company, in Kontum, Vietnam!  I remembered the first day when I walked into the compound; it had been hit by a “Sapper” attack, when the VC snuck into the compound and blew up some of the Helicopters, the hooches, and killed several of the men!  It was a scary place to walk into; helicopters shredded, guys walking around with blank looks on their faces, after finding their buddies dead!  But the attitude was that “this will never happen again”, and they had a strong determination to do whatever was necessary to protect the unit from ever being infiltrated by enemy combatants in the future!  I grew up around WWII and Korean vets, but this was my first view of the way combat changes the appearance of young men, turning them into warriors, and these guys were warriors!

I remember my first time in an enemy attack; they came at us in one of a great many assaults against the unit, and there was heavy fire coming in through the concertina wire, and mortars and rockets screaming in overhead, exploding into shredded metal, threatening anyone near where they hit!  I ran to the bunker and stood with my brothers, firing my weapon into the darkness, hoping to hit, and stop any enemy headed towards us!  Then my mind travelled to the night of the ’68 Tet Offensive; we woke up because we heard the sound of a mortar being fired, then the explosion at the back of the hooch, which severely injured two of my buddies; Pat Hills and Mike Fanning!  I had just sat up on my bunk when it hit, and the explosion slamming me to the floor, knocking me out!  When I woke up, almost everyone was gone, so I ran to the “First Flight” hooch where everyone had gone to gather up!  We thought the enemy was in the compound, and it was damned scary, but we all got up and went out to do our jobs!  That night was hell, we were  hit by an overpowering amount of enemy soldiers, yet we stood our ground and fought them off!  I saw many acts of extreme courage that night, and the nights that followed, and I saw an Aviation Unit turn into some of the best combat soldiers in the military!  There were many times in 1968 when we were in extreme danger of being over-run, but we tucked it up and held our ground, and we earned our honor at “Rocket City”!

Being in an aviation unit, I flew as a Crewchief on a Huey helicopter, and I saw the bravery and total courage of the men from the 4th Division, and the 5th Special Forces, as they fought hard to protect the lives of each other, with many sacrificing those lives to save their brothers and, as I helped load their bodies on my bird, I told myself that I would never forget the unselfish sacrifice of each, and every one of them to save the lives of others in their unit!  And I will never forget the faces of the severely wounded that we flew back to their home base, and the ones that I held as they died, listening to them ask me if their brothers made it out alright, and to tell their families that they loved them!   And I can remember the sinking feeling in my heart when we loaded up the pieces of bodies, many times totally unrecognizable, knowing that this was someone’s son, brother, uncle, or husband, and that the families would never see their young soldier again, as there was so little left to be able to recognize who they were!

Civilians watch movies, read books, and play video games, and they think they know what combat is all about, but they have no idea of the depth of the courage and self-sacrifice that goes on, every day, in war!  The smell of explosives, the odor of the dead, the screams of the wounded, the inner panic of not knowing if you will leave the battle alive, or in a body bag!  That split-second decision when you either watch your brother suffer with wounds, or run out to grab him and drag him back to safety, the moment when you jump on a hand grenade to safe everyone else by sacrificing your life, which Jim Gillespie, a buddy of mine from High School did, or that moment when you could run to save your own life, or stand and fight with your brothers to save your unit!  Those aren’t decisions made by some lawyer as to whether or not he will take a “risky” case, they are not decisions as to which group of people you will hang out with, maybe sacrificing your “cool”, and they are not decisions that a politician makes as to whether or not to support the people, as our Constitution dictates, or to support Special Interests, making themselves a power base and a lot of money; they are life-threatening, split-second decisions that a real man has to make, and they are not that hard for a soldier to make, because he has learned the true value of loyalty to one’s brothers, and their lives hold more importance than their own!

When you  look at Veteran’s Day today, don’t look at it as a “holiday for home barbecuing”, look at it for what it truly is and reach out to the veteran near you and let him know that you truly honor his sacrifice for you and  your family!  Let him know that you understand that we would not be the America that has freedom for all citizens had it not been for him, or her, and many others like them; let them know that you understand that they did what they did to serve their country, to protect it from all enemies, so that you could live your life in safety and never have to worry about the futures of your children!  I was so ashamed last Saturday, when St. Louis held it’s annual Veteran’s Day parade; the city did not hold some grand celebration for the men and women who fought to protect them, there was a small, short run path through a tiny section of the downtown area, and the turnout was so small that there were more people in the parade than on the streets!  And those who were standing on the road cheering were families of the veterans in the parade, some very supportive citizens and, at the end, the largest group of people were the members of the parade who had already ended their part in it, and stood out on the street cheering their fellow veterans who were still marching through!  What has happened to our country when the citizens feel so self-righteous that they feel that they are “owed” the sacrifice of our military, that they “deserve” to have others sacrifice their lives to protect them, and they feel no responsibility to stand up and thank the bravery of  our young men and women who do the job that they are too afraid to do themselves?  America, wake up!  If it weren’t for those who fight for your freedoms and rights under our Constitution, you would have nothing that  you now have, nothing that allows you live as you wish to live, nothing to give you the right to walk on the streets of our country as a free, self-determining American citizen!  Start thinking about who maintains those rights for you and let them know that you care!

WAKE UP AMERICANS, OR LOSE AMERICA!

Michael J. Kilgus

Gladiator 059


7 Comments

  1. David Turner says:

    I just want to Thank You your Sacrafice my Brother. I too am a Viet nam Vet. Phu Bai 70-71. I didn’t see near what you saw a a Chopper Pilot, but I saw a lot on the ground while there. WELCOME HOME!!!!

    • Dave, I was a crewchief, not a pilot. I was lucky enough to have my pilots give me some stick time, just in case I needed to fly them to safety, but I think I was the last person anyone would have wanted to see in control of the stick on a mission. You guys on the ground did more than we ever could! Welcome Home to you, my brother!

  2. John Ryan says:

    From a Patriot who kept order in the states during the time of shoot outs in cities and killing of “Cops” I cut and paste a message from him and in doing so say “Shame on Saint Louis” the “Nation” is “Watching”.

    As for the 57th guys, you were amongst the toughest in country, as anyone would I grieve for your losses but you lived up to the names for your various groups,”Gladiators” and “Cougars”.. Today I think of all in General and one personal as always not associated with your outfit as I was not either.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/holidays/november_2010/81_share_a_favorable_opinion_of_u_s_military

    Today is Veterans Day, a holiday to honor those who have died to defend this country, and Americans continue to hold the U.S. military in very high regard.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 81% of Adults view the U.S. military favorably. Just eight percent (8%) have an unfavorable opinion of the military, while 11% are undecided. (To see survey question wording,click here.)

    The favorable finding is identical to what we found last Veterans Day, but is up 10 points from 2007.

    By comparison, 89% of Americans view small business owners and those who start their own business favorably, while 74% hold a favorable opinion of pastors and religious leaders. Members of Congress are lowest on a list of nine professions with just 23% with a favorable opinion.

    (Want a free daily e-mail update? If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

    The survey of 1,000 Adults nationwide was conducted on November 8-9, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

    Thirty-five percent (35%) say they have a close friend or relative who has given his or her life while serving in the military. This finding is little changed from past years. Fifty-eight percent (58%) say they do not have any friends or relatives who have given their lives during service.

    Roughly one-fifth of Americans (19%) says they have served in the military, showing almost no change from the past several years. Seventy-nine percent (79%) say they have not served.

    Slightly more men than women view the military favorably. Republicans are more likely than Democrats and voters not affiliated with either major political party to have a favorable opinion of the military.

    Most Americans remain willing to help defend only five other countries in the world militarily – Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Germany and Mexico.

    A federal appeals court ruled in August that the Stolen Valor Act passed by Congress in 2006 which makes it illegal to falsely claim a military honor or decoration is unconstitutional. But 65% of Americans favor a law that criminalizes false claims about military honors or awards.

  3. John Ryan says:

    From my Congressman, Pete Olson, also a Veteran, a Pilot if I remember correctly… See Below…

    Dear Friend,

    On Veteran’s Day, we honor those who have served in defense of liberty so that we may live in a free society. Our first veterans gave their lives so that we may live under a government of our own choosing. Since then, generations of Americans have answered the call to duty, a tradition that continues today.

    Many of the men and women fighting in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been deployed multiple times. The pressures they and especially their families face are immense. Saying “thank you” seems too small a gesture to adequately express our appreciation, but it is something we should do at every opportunity and something that would mean a lot to those who wear – or wore – the uniform.

    More than 150,000 of our nation’s sons and daughters are currently deployed in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. They are fighting against Al-Qaeda and other terrorists who continue to work to bring their violent hatred of the United States to our shores. Houstonians and thousands of Texans are playing an important role in protecting America.

    We are proud of our brave fighters who are sacrificing daily to stop our enemies in their tracks, and we must support the judgment and strategies of their commanders on the ground. As a former Navy pilot, I understand all too well how important it is to give those commanders on the ground the abilty to make the best decisions for the men and women they must place in danger.

    Let’s remain committed to victory in the War Against Terror, and let’s offer our prayers to each and every veteran, past and present for their service, their patriotism and their sense of duty. So today on Veterans Day and every day, when you see someone in uniform, be sure to say a simple thank you.

    Very Respectfully,
    Pete Olson

  4. John Ryan says:

    This one from a Patriot who supports our Military and Conservative Values. In addition has assimilated into our country and become one of us, remember how it used to be many decades ago? Well this man is a prime example of that style assimilation into becoming an American.

  5. John Ryan says:

    And Greetings from the Governor of Texas, The Honorable Rick Perry, longest serving governor in Texas History and a Veteran himself, a Pilot… See below for message..

    From: Governor Rick Perry
    Date: 11/11/2010 1:06:47 PM
    \Subject: Continuing to thank our veterans

    Let’s continue to share our thanks for those who defend America on this Veterans Day! To my fellow veterans who have helped make this nation safe, I express sincere gratitude on behalf of every Texan. Today we honor the valor of your sacrifice and the legacy of your heroism, which is our freedom.

    We observe Veterans Day because great deeds should be honored. Many have answered the call and shed their blood for freedom’s cause. The freedom we enjoy as Americans has been purchased at great cost by men and women who have confronted evil with courage and placed themselves in harm’s way to protect the American Way.

    But our responsibility goes far beyond one day of celebration and remembrance. We must make sure every veteran returns to a proper welcome. When the Texas legislature convenes in January, we have an obligation to continue taking care of our veterans, and I am confident we will succeed. Each is a hero, and each deserves a hero’s welcome.

    I would like to share with you the story of an individual that expresses the sacrifice that our service members make each day away from their families.

    Thank you, may God bless you, and may God bless America.

    Rick Perry

  6. John Ryan says:

    More that may be of interest to any Veterans or anyone at all wanting to Thank a Veteran, see below….

    http://www.uso.org/thanks/?src=sc2010110

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