Topic: A personal perspective on Veterans Day...(very long)
Replies: 8   Last Post: Nov 12, 2020, 12:24 AM by: TigerLinks®
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A personal perspective on Veterans Day...(very long)

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Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 12:37 PM

A few weeks ago I received the Clemson World magazine that seems to find me everywhere I go. Having been a married student most of my college years, I didn't have the great number of friends that fraternities and other organizations can create, but I gave it the usual scan just in case someone I remembered made the news. A quick look verified that nobody I knew died or became a parent, and then I saw the article entitled "Answering the Call" about Clemson's World War II participants. Something was familiar about one of the young men pictured in the piece, so I read on. The story was interesting enough, recounting patriotism by members of the Clemson Family, but when I read the experience of Professor Skardon during and after the Bataan Death March, lightning struck.

The article told of hardship, sacrifice and heroism, things that the participants don't often speak of themselves. Dr. Skardon had written a few lines describing for public consumption what was surely private horror. He told briefly of the deprivations of being a POW during the Second World War, and how his life was preserved at the hands of his friends. Being a veteran of a different war, I knew that he had summarized the experience, leaving the more unsavory parts for his own reflection in the still of the night.

Either I looked pretty rough as I stepped up to register as a sophomore in January of 1972, or my face told something. I had only been absent from Clemson for two years, but those two had soured me on lines, and dealing with anything remotely bureaucratic. By now my hair had grown a little longer, in keeping with the trends, and I'm sure my blue jeans were properly ragged. I wore a green army jacket that day, much like the ones that could be purchased surplus at any army store and seen all across campus. The difference was, my fatigue jacket had been issued to me. Several patches were sewn on, identifying the units in which I had served. On the front above the left pocket was a combat infantry badge, a long rifle outlined in black with an olive drab background. Commonly referred to as a CIB, it was awarded to infantrymen who had been under fire. Of all the commendations a grunt could receive, this one usually meant the most.

Some people wore army jackets as an expression of disdain for our country's waning military involvement in Southeast Asia. To most folks, it was just an inexpensive way to keep warm while dressing down. My fatigue jacket kept me warm, but also served as a periodic reminder of a defining time in my life. I had come back to school that year a much more liberal thinker than I had left, also in keeping with the times. This was quite a shift from my politics of several years earlier, when I had hooted and jeered at students holding a candlelight vigil for the slain. "Pinko Commies!" we had shouted. These days I mostly just kept to myself, quietly observing the changes that had taken place and inwardly trying to balance it all.

That's why it surprised me a little when the man sitting across the table signing students up for class stopped what he was doing and studied me for a moment. He seemed more interested in me than all the others, a sure sign that some hassle was about to develop. "Why me?" I thought. After several penetrating moments, this representative of the establishment spoke. "Young man," he asked, pointing to the rifle on my coat, "did you earn that badge?" How many responses passed through my mind just then, I can't remember. Judging from my general attitude at the time, the dominant one probably was, "who wants to know?" or "what's it to you?" At that time I wasn't ready to open any friendly avenues of discussion, particularly with strangers who couldn't relate. Nevertheless, my respectful southern upbringing carried the instant and I answered, "yes sir." He stood up, still looking me in the eye, and reached his hand across the table that separated us. "Then I would like to shake your hand," he said softly. Nothing else was said that I recall. I returned both his handshake and his gaze firmly, and then filled out the punch cards that would enter me into classes.

Several college years passed, and before I knew it I had earned a degree in management. More years were spent following job opportunities and career changes across the country and back. Almost twenty four years after re-entering Clemson, my politics have migrated much farther right than I ever would have supposed, I am still trying to find balance in some things, and it amazes me at how long it can take for certain important lessons to sink in. When I recognized that the young man in the picture was Professor Ben Skardon, I realized it was he who had offered me his hand on registration day.

My generation returned from answering our country's call with many of us wondering at our homecoming. Besides "welcome home" written on the chamber of commerce signboard, little else was said that indicated our nation's gratitude one way or the other. As we re-entered society, there were times when it seemed that nobody appreciated our contribution, and for years I questioned whether anybody could relate to our sacrifice. It took nearly a quarter of a century, but I finally discovered that there was at least one who did.

2 October 1995
Published in Clemson World Mag circa 1996

Thanks for posting!

Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 12:45 PM

A big thank you to all that have served.

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Go Tigers AND Tiger Nation!

Re: A personal perspective on Veterans Day...(very long)

Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 12:53 PM

Thank you for the post and Thank you for your service and honesty.

It is good to know there are many silent heroes like you all around.

Re: A personal perspective on Veterans Day...(very long)

Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 2:29 PM

Thank you, my friend.
Along the way, time changes everything.
I've always valued these words:

Ecclesiastes 3
King James Version
3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Well said - your reference to a field jacket

Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 2:32 PM

matches mine in another post I made on here today. Mine still hangs in my closet and was worn for many years after I left the Army in 1971.


Re: Well said - your reference to a field jacket

Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 3:21 PM

Thank you for your service. I am an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam era. We didn't get a welcome home when we got home from our service. When I was in Texas at an AFB, we were told to wear civilian clothes when we went off base. Also, we were told when we left base after our working hours, not to stop to shop on the way home while wearing our uniform. I am so thankful that Vietnam veterans are being recognized and being cheered for their service. It is late for many veterans have passed on before their country recognized their good and faithful service to their country. I was applauded today as I was recognized as a veteran. I applaud all our veterans that have served our country whether in wartime or peacetime. We should all be proud of our country and the men and women who have served in all branches of the armed services.


Re: A personal perspective on Veterans Day...(very long)

Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 5:46 PM

Thank you for your service and your excellent post. Change is inevitable. If we could replace hate with love and respect, wouldn't that make for a wonderful world.

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One of the best posts I’ve ever seen. Thank you for your service, God Bless You!***

Posted: Nov 11, 2020, 6:34 PM

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"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." - Jackie Robinson

Re: A personal perspective on Veterans Day...(very long)

Posted: Nov 12, 2020, 12:24 AM

That's a great story. I have a special place in my heart for veterans who served first and then went to college. My brother was one. I went to college first and then into the service. I'm the one on the left proudly wearing my Clemson ring!


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