Honoring our veterans
On a day set aside to remember our veterans, retired Marine Capt. Kenneth Wade reminded listeners that they shouldn’t stray from our thoughts the other 364 days on the calendar.
Sevier County held its Veterans Day program Monday. While normally held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 each year to mark the end of World War I, the ceremony on the County Courthouse lawn was held Monday because that date fell on a Sunday.
“This Veteran’s Day, think of a vet and think of them 364 days as well,” he said.
He encouraged people to support organizations that aid veterans, and to also think of that not just now but year round.
Rain held off until after the hour-long program was finished, but low clouds and gusting winds forced the cancelation of the flyover by a squad of vintage fighter planes. The program still featured most of it other annual ceremonies, including one to honor service men and women who are missing or killed in action and a salute by the firing squad of American Legion Post 104’s honor guard.
Wade used an anecdote to illustrate that any person who served in combat could be recognized with the sort of medals and honors that note distinguished service — “the unsung heroes who didn’t get the big medal to wear on their chest.”
A helicopter pilot himself, Wade told the story of another flyer who served in his unit before he arrived in Vietnam — Capt. Al Chancey, who flew supplies in to surrounded Marines during the Tet Offensive.
For several months, Chancey and the other pilots in the unit would get up before dawn and fly several times to the Marines’ hilltop bases, braving withering enemy fire to ferry in supplies and carry out wounded or departing Marines on each trip.
Often when they landed, they’d know they had less than a minute to discharge their cargo and pick up the departing personnel before enemy mortar fire started striking the landing zone.
They would fly out from their main base in the early hours before dawn, return after dark and catch some sleep so they could repeat the process the next day.
So he recalled what Chancey told him when he asked if he had enough medals to cover his chest.
“By the time we got back to our home base, writing up awards for bravery and valor just wasn’t on our minds. We were tired, we were hungry.
“Valor was so common we could have written lots of awards. We just didn’t think of medals. We just thought this is how it is when you’re a Marine in combat. This is the way it goes. Everybody does their job and does the best they can and the way they’re trained to do it.”
That could apply to those serving in any branch during battles like that, Wade said.
“There’s a few deeds that get recognized, but there’s a lot (that) don’t.”