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-- Last WWI Combat Veteran Laid to Rest (3/9/2007)
-- Decorated American Indian Veteran Dies (3/12/2007)
-- ACLU condemned (5/25/2007)
-- Won't be Long and They Will be Gone (5/30/2007

Won't be Long and They Will be Gone

Won't be Long and They Will be Gone

From a Military Doctor:

I am a doctor specializing in the Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One-Trauma Centers, both in San Antonio, TX and they care for civilian Emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here. As a military doctor, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work.

Most often, it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash. Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed.

With our large military retiree population, it is often a nursing home patient. Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.

I saw 'Saving Private Ryan, 'I was touched deeply, not so much by the carnage, but by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside, asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Dept. and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Dept. encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a 'hard stick.' As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said, 'Auschwitz.' Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.

Also, there was this long retired Colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific Island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, he had a minor cut on his head from a fall at his home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end for several hours, and I couldn't drive him myself.

I was there the night MSgt. Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Dept. for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn't know I was there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill's Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor of Omaha Beach the 101 year old World War I veteran the former POW held in frozen North Korea, the former Special Forces medic - now with non-operable liver cancer the former Viet Nam Corps Commander. I remember these citizens I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women.

I have seen a Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who've sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.

It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation. My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows not what it is losing.

Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must “Earn this”.

Written By CPT. Stephen R. Ellison, M.D.
 

ACLU condemned for 'attacking' veterans memorials during time of war
Jim Brown OneNewsNow.com May 25, 2007

A constitutional attorney says instead of thanking American veterans for their service, the American Civil Liberties Union is "dishonoring" them by attacking their memorials across the United States.

The American Legion has announced that it is teaming up with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and Liberty Legal Institute in a campaign to fight ACLU efforts to remove religious symbols from war memorials. The ACLU has already filed suit to remove crosses at veterans' memorials, like the Mt. Soledad cross in San Diego and the Sunrise Rock cross in the Mojave Desert, which is now covered by a box.

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Liberty Legal attorney Hiram Sasser accused the ACLU of engaging in "a war against honor and valor." He said it is "inconceivable in a time of war such as now that the ACLU and others would be attacking the memorials, the very symbols of honor and sacrifice of our national heritage.

"These symbols and these memorials serve as reminders to all of us of the great sacrifice and courage and valor of our veterans," Sasser observed. The ACLU and its allies "have no respect, decency or shame," he added.

At that same news conference, ADF senior vice president Joe Infranco noted that it has never been unconstitutional for a memorial to have a religious symbol. "The will of the public expressed so clearly by voters and Congress is being attacked by a few individuals whose legal theory is based on a claim that they are offended," he pointed out.

"Let us see this claim for exactly what it is," Infranco continued. "These individuals assert that their being offended should override the public's desire to honor veterans as we have since the founding of our nation," he said.

ADF and Liberty Legal are offering pro-bono representation to any municipality that is sued for displaying a veterans memorial that contains religious symbols. Infranco said his group is on a "search and protect mission" to defend America's veterans memorials from the "misguided fanaticism" of the ACLU.
 

Decorated American Indian Veteran Dies
Associated Press | March 12, 2007

HARTFORD, Conn. - Billy Walkabout, a native Cherokee whose actions in Vietnam made him among most decorated Soldiers of the war, died March 7, his stepdaughter said Sunday. He was 57.

Walkabout received the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, five Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. He was believed to be the most decorated Native American Soldier of the Vietnam War, according to U.S. Department of Defense reports.

Walkabout, who lived in Montville, died of pneumonia and renal failure at a Norwich hospital, said his stepdaughter, Randi Johnson of Norwich.

He had experienced complications related to his exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam conflict, she said, and he had been on a kidney transplant waiting list and undergoing dialysis three times a week.

Walkabout, a Cherokee of the Blue Holley Clan, was an 18-year-old Army Ranger sergeant when he and 12 other Soldiers were sent on an assassination mission behind enemy lines on Nov. 20, 1968, in a region southwest of Hue.

However, they ended up in the enemy's battalion area and came under fire for hours, during which he was seriously wounded. Several of the other 12 men were killed at the scene, while the rest later died of their injuries.

Walkabout's citation for the Distinguished Service Cross said he simultaneously returned fire, helped his comrades and boarded other injured Soldiers onto evacuation helicopters.

"Although stunned and wounded by the blast, Sgt. Walkabout rushed from man to man administering first aid, bandaging one Soldier's severe chest wound and reviving another Soldier by heart massage," the citation states.

In a 1986 interview with The Associated Press, Walkabout said his 23 months in Vietnam left him with disabling injuries and memories that refused to fade.

"War is not hell," Walkabout said. "It's worse."

He said he struggled with failed marriages, thoughts of suicide and years of self-isolation when he would spend six months at a time alone.

Over the years, however, he found solace in the Native American powwows where he often was an honored guest.

At the time of his death, Walkabout and his wife, Juanita Medbury-Walkabout, lived in a portion of eastern Connecticut that is home to many American Indian tribal members.

His family is in the process of requesting a military burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Johnson said.
 

 Last WWI Combat Veteran Laid to Rest
Army News Service | Spc. April L. Dustin | March 09, 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. - The echo of a 21-gun salute and bugler playing Taps seemingly marked the end of an era as a state and national treasure was laid to rest in Portland, Ore., March 2.

Retired Army Cpl. Howard V. Ramsey, Oregon's last living World War I veteran and the last known U.S. combat veteran of WWI, died in his sleep Feb. 22 at an assisted living center in southeast Portland. He was honored in a memorial service attended by nearly 200 people at Lincoln Memorial Park exactly one month before reaching his 109th birthday.

"This is a very historic occasion; we lay to rest today our nation's oldest combat veteran," said Pastor Stu Weber, who officiated over Ramsey's memorial service.

In an Associated Press report, Jim Benson of the Veterans Administration said there are now only seven WWI veterans on record with the VA, although it is possible there are unknown veterans who may still exist.

Of the seven known WWI veterans still living, none were shipped overseas, making Ramsey the last known combat veteran of "The Great War." Ramsey inherited the title two weeks before his passing, when Massachusetts veteran Antonio Pierro passed away on Feb. 8.

Ramsey's lifetime spanned three centuries and 19 presidents. He was born in Rico, Colo., on April 2, 1898, when the U.S. flag had just 45 stars and President McKinley was preparing to declare war with Spain.

Too young to be drafted, Ramsey tried to voluntarily enlist but was told he was too skinny by Army standards. After gorging on bananas and water to successfully meet weight standards, he was placed in the Army's transportation corps.

Ramsey sailed to France in September 1918 to join General John "BlackJack" Pershing's American Expeditionary Force. Ramsey drove cars, trucks and motorcycles for the Army and trained other Soldiers how to drive. He was often selected to drive officers to special engagements, one officer "gigging" him for having a dirty truck despite the constant rain and mud in France. He also drove ambulances, transported troops to the frontlines and delivered water to troops on the battlefields.

Ramsey once recalled his service in WWI saying, "We were under fire a lot at the front, and we really caught hell one time. I lost friends over there."

After the armistice, Ramsey spent several months recovering the remains of American Soldiers who had been hastily buried in the trenches and transported them to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest American cemetery in Europe.

"You'd better believe it was pretty awful work," Ramsey told Oregonian reporter Rick Bella in 2005. "It was tough, but you became hardened to it."

Nearly 90 years later, Ramsey was still haunted by regret for not breaking the rules and keeping a diary that fell from the pocket of one deceased American Soldier. Ramsey told family and friends, "I wanted to keep that diary so badly to send it to his mother, but it was against the rules to keep anything from off the bodies."

Veterans of many generations and wars, and military representatives attended Ramsey's memorial service to pay their respects, including Brig. Gen. Raymond C. Byrne Jr., commander of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Jim Willis, state director of Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs.

"If we are going to end an era, I can think of no better way than to do it with a person who is a model representation of the kinds of Soldiers who served this country in WWI, and someone who would be an example to any combat Soldier serving up to, and including those who serve in Afghanistan and Iraq today. All (veterans) would be justifiably proud to have known Corporal Howard Ramsey," said Willis.

Retired Army Col. Don Holden, whose father was Ramsey's classmate at Washington High School, shared fond memories of Ramsey's sense of humor. He said farewell to his old friend by reading the epic WWI poem "Flander's Field," which Ramsey could recite from memory well into his late 90s.

(Spc. April L. Dustin writes for the Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office.)
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