A vet remembers veterans

Published 10:47 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2014

By Frank Roberts

Veterans Day was celebrated last week — a day of flag-waving, patriotic speeches and, in at least the one I attended, scolding.

To be honest, most of these celebrations are ill attended. If you told the general public there would be a football game or that some talent-less but well-publicized performer would be on hand, attendance would, at least, quadruple.

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Veterans Day tends to bring out —well — veterans. In the last few years, their problems have been many, varied and frightening.

In my hometown of Hertford, N.C. a representative of the state’s Division of Veterans Affairs was the “tell-it-like-it-is” guest speaker, invited by the William Paul Stallings American Legion Post 362.

Jarvis Abbott, an Air Force retiree, noted that last week’s celebrations paid special tribute to Vietnam veterans.

“These men and women returned home to receive less than the honor and respect they deserved,” he said. “I pray that our nation will never revisit that type of behavior again. Most of us know someone that went to serve in that war, only to return (as) a shell of their former selves.

“You hardly recognize them because they have changed, but you can’t seem to pinpoint how or why. You want to help, but you don’t know what to do. Those situations present themselves, because the veteran is unable to articulate what is wrong.

“It’s impossible to imagine the day-to-day stress they had to face. These were ordinary men and women called upon to perform extraordinary feats during extreme times, yet they performed honorably.

“If, today, you are unable to feel pride or be awed at the accomplishments made by our veterans, something is wrong with you.”

He said veterans “have come from different walks of life, but they share similar qualities. They possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication and integrity. Some were mere boys having to face situations that demanded they become men overnight — yet they performed their duties in an outstanding manner.

“They never asked to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields, but they went willingly.”

Abbott told about Marine Lt. Clebe McClary, who had served in Vietnam.

“He was injured many times and was left for dead. Somehow he survived,” Abbot said. “He has had over 30 operations and suffered much physical damage, to include losing an arm and an eye. Yet his love for his country has only continued to grow.”

McClary is a motivational speaker who, Abbott noted, “managed to disregard the hecklers and protestors who ridiculed him for fighting in Vietnam.”

Most of us can easily recall those headline-making events.

McClary said many such vets are unable to cope in society, and they now find themselves homeless.

“While we as a nation enjoy our freedoms won by our veterans, some of them right around the corner are homeless. That should never be (allowed) in a country as great as ours.”

McClary said the Veterans Administration has vowed to end homelessness by the end of next year.

He distributed a NC4VETS Resource Guide with the names and numbers, people and places vets need for assistance. Like many such publications, it is thick and wordy. “It is,” Abott said, “a step in the right direction.”

Vietnam is history. but some of the results of that encounter are not and, frighteningly, it seems as if the worst is yet come.

Veterans can get more information at doa.nc.gov/vets.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at froberts73@embarqmail.com.