Friday, November 9, 2012


November 9, 2012
As a businessman, the recent election has given much to be concerned about.  The strength and sustainability of the business and the jobs that it creates weigh heavily on my shoulders.  I, like many other businessmen, are pretty concerned about the direction that the present administration is taking.  Business confidence (like consumer confidence) is important in the driving of this huge vehicle that we call the economy.  While their are some businesses out there who feel differently, I can assure you that most of us are uncertain and an uncertain businessman while be more wary of his decisions.  He will be more protective of his assets and less willing to take the chances of expansion which is needed to fire up the engine.
This post is not meant to be sour grapes.  It is merely a way of attempting to explain a mindset.  Unfortunately, the majority spoke the other day and they do not see things the same way that we do.  We are left to live with that and attempt to go on and lead our respective businesses in the best way possible.
We also see the economy as a fragile house of cards.  And our divided populace as a cracked foundation.  Unless we can come together as one and solve this fiscal cliff that looms in front of us, the house just gets shakier and shakier.  For many of us, that makes the decision even more confusing and concerning.  We have seen our country and our fellow Americans become more divided in the past 4 years. It is as if we are looking at the same painting and seeing two different visions.
The veteran community, for the most part, sees this in a similar light.  Many of them fought in foreign wars against oppressive governments that aimed to rule over their populace.  They see a growing government with wary suspicious eyes.  Many of my veteran buddies shared with me on Wednesday a similar thought.  And though the words were sometimes placed in different ways, the meaning was always pretty much the same: "This is more similar to what we fought against than what we fought for.".  This was quite evident when you looked at the backing of the two candidates.  A poll showed that the military backed Mr. Romney by over 2 to 1.  If you would take the veterans into consideration, that number was far greater.  I have a pretty good pulse of the local veteran community and I see the number to be maybe 10 to 1 or even greater.  Of the hundred or so vets that meet in the diner on Mondays, I only know of a small handful that feel differently.  Of higher level retired officers, only a handful backed the present administration while hundreds (Democrat and Republican alike) took out an ad in the days before the election stating their concern.  On Wednesday, I witnessed the concerned drooped shoulders of crusty old vets who as usual tried to keep their thoughts to themselves, pick themselves up by their boot straps, and continue on as they always have.
That scenario made what happened yesterday at a local high school even more powerful to a handful of veterans that I was a part of.
A couple of weeks back, we were contacted regarding a plaque that had been hanging at the old Bend High Building (and present day admin building) in downtown Bend.  This plaque was from the early 50's and was of the Bend High graduates that were lost in WW2.  They wanted to take the plaque and place it in the present day Bend High.
The first week we talked about this at the Band of Brothers, only a few hands went up when asked if their were interest in experiencing this event.  I felt (and I believe others did also) that the kids would not understand the significance of the plaque and that they would not probably give it it's due.
So, last Monday, we addressed the Band of Brothers again.  I first asked for hands of Bend High grads.  There were a few throughout the room.  I explained again the significance of the event and gave them my thoughts of the importance of showing these young people just how important something like this was to all of us.  After all, these were the fallen.  These were the heroes.  These were the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedom that we have.  A show of hands showed that some 30 guys agreed and would show up.
We mustered in the back room of the diner and left in cars at around 10AM, driving the short distance to the school.  The school had cordoned off a small parking lot for us and we were met at the door by students and escorted down to the library.  The old vets were taken by the reception and many enjoyed talking with their escorts as we walked down the halls of the school.
The reception in the library was very nice with the culinary department making us sweets and coffee.  While many of us did not partake, it was not because we did not want to but that many of us can no longer handle much of the sugary confections especially before a meal.  I watched as the veterans settled into the space and enjoyed the attention that they were getting.  I even helped the young journalist who was interviewing some of them find the WW2 guys to talk since the plaque was even more their event.
We were told that the kids would be going down to the auditorium first and that we would be brought up the isles to the stage afterwords.  This made perfect sense but when we heard that all of the students would be attending, I think we all kind of wondered how awkward this might end up being.  We were marched down to the entrance and waited while the assembly began.
I was towards the front of my line just behind my two friends, Loren and Zin.  We could see the mass of kids in the room in front of us.  HD, the school principal and an old friend, was up on stage announcing the event.  He put up a video showing some of the original Band of Brothers from the movie.  He spoke of what the group had gone through and then let the video speak for itself as the various veterans explained how they felt.  The last sound bite was of the leader.  He spoke of something that his grand daughter had asked him.  She said, "Grandpa, were you a hero?".  He answered ,  "No, but I served with a band of heroes."
The room hushed as the video stopped and HD took up the microphone as we walked into the room and he introduced us.  The kids jumped to their feet with cheers as we walked down the isle.  My eyes tear up even now as I recall back.  30 crusty old vets, some with canes, some bent over with age, all taken back with surprise paraded down the isle to the resounding applause and cheers of 1600 kids.

I almost feel like ending this post right there....for that moment was so incredibly special.  Those kids have no idea what or how they affected that small group.  To the man, we choked back the tears as we walked through this incredible acknowledgment.  The kids saw a stage full of shell shocked veterans.
I cannot speak for the first two wars, but I can for the Vietnam.  Many of us still hold a bit of bitterness over how we felt after the war.  First off, the war was not a popular one.  And even though we actually did everything we attempted to do and claimed victory at the Paris Peace accords, our politicians failed to back or support the regime that we left in the south of Vietnam.  They had not been able to build up their commerce enough to support themselves and even though we left them with adequate equipment, we did not support them with the fuel and ammunition needed to use it.  Two years after the cease fire, the Communist North heavily backed by China and Russia, swept through the land with a vengeance.  I know this for a fact, for I was there and experienced it first hand.
When my ship returned to port that year, there was no fan fare.  No bands. Just a spattering of family members meeting some of the guys at the pier.  No one cared or seem to care.  No 'when johnny comes marching home'.  Most of us didn't wear our uniforms off base and only wore them when flying home because that was the only way to get the free flights.  We got out and joined the civilian life....leaving behind just memories.
Many of us became somewhat closet vets.  We either threw away our uniforms or just packed some of them away.  I remember having mine for a few years stowed away in my bag that later got thrown out in one of our moves.  I talked now and then with some of the other veterans including my previous employer who had been in some pretty bad battles and I think I felt myself somewhat unworthy of being called a Vietnam vet for even though I had seen some crazy things, my boots had never actually felt the ground and bullets never pierced the air around my head.
It took a small group of guys a few years back to pull me back to a bit of reality and to gain back the pride of being a part of a special group.  And through all of that, being able to feel something special that only people who have shared experiences feel.  It is hard to explain that feeling but pretty much every veteran has it.
It is hard also to explain how yesterday made us feel.   We talked about it in the car on the way back to the diner and one of the guys summed it up pretty good when he said what he was thinking as he stood up on the stage while the kids shouted, cheered, and applauded us.  He said, "What in the hell am I doing up here?  What did I do to deserve this?".
We came to Bend High to show a bunch of young people how important memorials are to us.  Our expectations were that these kids did not understand...could not understand.  We went to attempt to show something to them.  They ended up being the teachers.  And, suddenly, we saw something that we did not see on Wednesday.........Hope.
Thank you Bend High!

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