By Lew Waters
Once again we prepare to honor those who have served in all of our wars, paying special homage to those who did not return from our wars. Nearly all of us who served in combat zones over our history view those whose names are etched in stone on the many Veterans Memorials as the true heroes of our conflicts.
Viet Nam is labeled as “America’s Longest War” due to our involvement in that country from 1950 to the fall of Saigon in 1975. That 25 years pales when considering that after World War Two, we began engagement in a much longer war, but a more quiet war, a war where our Troops did not fire weapons at the enemy but stood at the ready nonetheless, training for a battle that never materialized.
The “Cold War” was fought with political conflict, military tension, and economic competition with the increasingly threatening build up of the most brutal weapons known to mankind that never were used.
That war lasted 46 years, 1945 to 1991 and was manned by many millions of heroes who often fought boredom in lonely outposts in the Arctic, walked along a fenced border in Europe or flew many hours circling in pre-staging areas armed with nuclear weapons awaiting the order to return any attack against our nation from the very formidable enemy we fought against, the Soviet Union and the oppressive stranglehold that ideology had on so many European countries as they attempted to spread their influence on peaceful nations.
While the world sat on the brink of nuclear annihilation and moved as close as it ever has during the early 1960’s, it never saw the feared nuclear confrontation between the two superpowers, in spite of our engagements in both the Korean and Viet Nam wars.
On November 9, 1989 the world witnessed the beginning of the end of the Soviet Empire as a wall built to divide the city of Berlin Germany came crumbling down, opened by citizens of the divided city who longed to be free and to freely visit relatives who lived on the free side of the city.
President Ronald Reagan’s famous speech where he uttered the ominous words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” two years earlier, saw their fulfillment. The wall dividing Berlin and the fence dividing the country opened up and freedom returned to that half of the country.
By December 1991, the world watched as the Soviet Union itself collapsed
Much credit was given to President Reagan for winning the Cold War, with some preferring to grant credit to President Jimmy Carter for starting the collapse in the late 1970’s.
Truth be known, all presidents who came along during the time of the Cold War continued policies set in motion by President Harry S. Truman shortly after World War Two. It was he who initiated the Berlin Airlift in 1948 to break the blockade of Berlin initiated by the Soviets to force allied powers out.
While we tend to give accolades to presidents and generals for victories, it is the hard work and extraordinary efforts of the common soldiers and officers who flew those planes, loaded and unloaded them and who directed aircraft safely in and out of Berlin that broke the blockade.
Likewise, as we feared invasions from communist nations close and far away or nuclear annihilation from ICBM attacks, it was the common soldiers who again manned sub-freezing temperatures across the northern hemisphere in lonely radar stations in what was called the DEW Line that kept vigil should a Soviet launch begin.
It was common men and women who sat in offices in front of monitors and screens watching 24 hours a day 7 days a week in undisclosed locations watching for any warning sign of a pending attack.
It was ordinary people who joined a peace-time Air Force and who manned bombers armed with nuclear weapons circling the edges of our nation 24 hours a day 7 days a week, leaving their posts only when a relief flight came up top take over.
It was people from all over the country, all races, all colors, descendants of all nationalities who enlisted out of high school or answered the call of the nation in the draft and who served their two years along the borders of Europe, the DMZ of South Korea, Japan, the Philippine Islands and lonely posts spread across the globe and prepared to fight off any enemy that would be foolish enough to try to conquer our nation from outside.
Some of these same people joined in the silent service of our Naval Forces, above and below the surface of the world’s oceans who, like the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command kept constant vigil far away from their homes to keep America and her inhabitants safe from oppression.
Many protected those of my generation who fought in Viet Nam and those who served elsewhere as we grew into adults and learned from their sense of duty to stand up to the oppression of communism and carry forth their vigilance.
As we approach this 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is to those Cold War Warriors who never had to face the enemy head-on, who didn’t have the chance to earn medals of valor, who may have never collected hazardous duty pay, but stood at the ready should they have been called that I dedicate this Veterans Day to this year.
It is to their service and sacrifice that supplied the deterrent we all took for granted that I recognize this year.
Whenever we may feel their contribution to our greatness as a nation was not worth as much as ours, remember the famous photo from 1961 of the East German Soldier leaping across the wire in Berlin to the free west as the city was being divided by the communists.
To all my brothers and sisters who served throughout the Cold War, standing watch on cold and miserable nights around the world, well done. Your steadfastness and readiness is what won the Cold War. Your combat may have been boredom, but you stood watch, keeping America safe, always at the ready.
“A veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The 'United States of America', for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'” (Author unknown)
Thank Your Military
Thank you too all who served.
Monday, November 02, 2009
By Lew Waters
Posted by Lew Waters at 9:31 PM