On Friday, July 28, I was privileged to be present at a memorial service for veterans of the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment. The 3/4 CAV (“Mackenzie’s Raiders“) has a long and honored history in service to the nation. Most of the former Soldiers present for the bi-annual reunion in Kansas City were Vietnam vets, although association members also served in Korea or the European Theater of World War II. The vets came to Fort Leavenworth’s Main Post Chapel on Friday morning to remember squadron members who have gone on to “Fiddlers Green.”
The names of 21 former squadron members – recently deceased – were read as a bell tolled for each. These troopers had the good fortune to survive their wars and return home to their families. The squdron lost 326 men in Vietnam. In addition, the names of 3 more recent “Mackenzie’s Raiders” were called – men who gave their lives in Afghanistan: LTC Mike McMahon, CW2 Travis Grogan, SPC Harley Miller. No one outside the military can fully understand how unit colors and traditions tie Soldiers together across the generations. When the piper played “Amazing Grace” and the bugle sounded “Taps,” these troopers grieved for friends who never came home, for friends more recently departed and for members of a new generation who carried their unit’s colors into battle.
The association’s chaplain – formerly an infantryman in Vietnam – told of his redemption in Jesus Christ following the war. He spoke about how his life had descended to the depths following his discharge, and about how God had rescued him from the death-spiral that his life had become. While the stereotype of the stressed-out vet is overplayed in the media, war does take its toll on the lives of all those involved. Our nation owes much to the veterans from whom it has asked so much. The Veterans Administration provides medical care and counseling for wounds of both the body and soul. The government can never provide, however, what the battle-weary heart of a veteran needs most.
Many of the 3/4 CAV vets went out of their way to thank me for my service – not because they know me or because I am any different than others who wear our nation’s uniform – but because they wanted to insure that this generation of veterans knows the nation honors their sacrifices. Too often, the older vets came home to a community that scorned them.
It was quite an honor to spend some time with these gentlemen and their families. They are heroes that inspire my generation. During the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, my unit engaged in 21 days of continuous, offensive combat operations from the border to Baghdad. As we neared the end of that phase of operations and tried to catch our breath, we all thought back to the Soldiers of previous wars – Vietnam, Korea, World War II – who fought so hard for so long. I told as many of these veterans as I could how much their faithfulness in their long, hard fight meant to us in this fight today.