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Tue, Nov 11, 2008

Today Is Veterans Day

Here's A Thought To Take With You

Aero-Views By Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien

(Editor's Note: Aero-News first ran this article on Veterans Day 2005, in honor of the men and women who have served with honor... and those who serve so valiantly today... in the armed forces of the United States of America. It was relevant then... and with each year that has passed since, it is even more so.)

Today, November 11, 2008, is Veterans Day in the United States. The date was the Armistice date of the War to End All Wars. (They were wrong about the name).

On the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns that had rumbled for over four years fell silent, and a shocked continent began to bind its wounds.

The USA came late to that war, a war triggered by a collapse of the balance of power between European despots. Our forefathers said that balance did not concern us. The president who had "Kept Us Out of War," as his campaign literature boasted, was re-elected. But the USA came to the war nonetheless.

In war, the other guy gets a vote, too.

Every nation recovered from the war in its own way; the United States interred an Unknown Soldier, and began to celebrate Armistice Day, which in 1953 became Veterans Day. In the USA, Veterans Day in November celebrates living veterans, and Memorial Day in May remembers their fallen comrades, and the fallen of past generations.

In practice, most Americans think about the dead and the living on both occasions, at least for a moment. The living, after all, cannot purge their minds of memories of the dead.

Our aviation world is full of veterans, even more so than our lives in general. The ranks of pilots, maintainers, engineers and designers, support personnel, and even entrepreneurs are leavened by those who took some time out of their teens and twenties -- and in some cases, thirties and forties -- to wear the uniform of these United States.

They were brave and not so brave, strong and not so strong, true believers and skeptical doubters. They went to war in Mustangs, Liberators (below), Dauntlesses; A-1s and F-86s and B-26s; O-2s and F-100s and UH-1s. They're still going to war in F-16s, F-18s, H-60s. They hauled trash in C-47s, and today their grandsons, and granddaughters -- there's a change for you -- haul trash in C-17s. They taught flying in muscular Stearmans, lithe T-38s, comical TH-55s.

They breathed dry oxygen through chapped, cold lips at 29,000 feet, or fetid jungle air through runny noses at treetop level.

They were the navigators, bombardiers, gunners, and guys in back. They were crew chiefs, avionics techs, armorers, weather guessers.

They were the guys on the ground, living in holes and looking at the sky and praying our planes would come on time.

They were warriors. They are veterans. What they have done is written in the pages of history.

May we earn this.



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