U.S. Veterans Cite Importance of Honoring Military Service
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2008 It’s important to recognize the efforts of America’s military veterans –- past and present -- because their contributions and sacrifices have enabled all Americans to stay free, a group of veterans said here today.
Army veteran Robert Cone, 86, regales conference attendee Henry Viswat with stories of his World War II experiences at the annual American Veterans Center conference, Washington, Nov. 7, 2008. DoD photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
America’s military men and women have provided selfless service in defense of the nation since its inception, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, 78, said at the annual American Veterans Center conference held in downtown Washington. The center’s mission is to preserve and promote the legacy of America’s veterans from World War II to the present.
“Being a part of that long line of history is something that I am particularly proud of, as I observe each Veterans Day and each Memorial Day,” said Vaught, a long-time advocate for military women and the president of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va.
“I am for women serving wherever they can,” said Vaught, who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s. After 28 years of service, Vaught retired from the Air Force in 1985 as one of America’s most highly-decorated military women.
“During the time that I was serving, it was always very much in my mind that I had to do well, so that another woman would have an opportunity to come behind me and perhaps have that same job,” Vaught said.
Almost no women were trained to use weapons when she joined the Air Force in 1957, Vaught said. All military women today are taught to operate rifles or pistols, she said, because “with terrorist-type activities, you never know where the threat is and you need to be able to defend yourself and you need to be able to take the offensive, if that’s what is required.”
Like their predecessors, today’s women in the military “are proud that they’re serving; they feel that they are doing something for their nation -- and they are,” Vaught said.
Another veteran, 86-year-old Robert Cone, regaled conference attendees with tales of his World War II experiences. Cone was an enlisted Army paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. He was a member of the group known as the “Filthy Thirteen,” whose exploits became the inspiration for the 1960s movie, “The Dirty Dozen,” that depicted a group of trouble-making soldiers chosen to conduct an important mission behind enemy lines.
Cone and other members of his unit signed copies of the book, “The Filthy Thirteen,” at the conference.
Military members’ sacrifices, Cone said, enable Americans at home to enjoy their freedoms and way of life.
“I admire anybody that is a veteran and is fighting for this country and everybody else should really admire them as much as I do,” Cone said.
Retired Marine Corps Col. Wesley L. Fox, 77, enlisted in the Marines in 1950 and became an officer during the Vietnam War. He received the Medal of Honor in Vietnam for his actions in leading a rifle company against an overwhelming enemy force. Fox was a Marine paratrooper and he retired in 1993 after 43 years of active duty. Fox is the author of two books, “Marine Rifleman” and “Courage and Fear.”
A “vocal minority” in the United States, Fox said, prevented Vietnam veterans from receiving deserved praise from the American public after the war ended.
That’s all changed, Fox said. Today’s military veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan “are heroes -- we recognize that,” he said.
Military veteran Michael H. Frederick, 50, is a writer working on a book about Marine Corps paratroopers. The Baltimore native served as an enlisted person during stints in the Marines and the Navy between 1976 and 1988.
“It’s important that later generations do not forget what it took to get the United States to where we are and the sacrifices that people have made,” Frederick said. “Some people have lost limbs and shed blood and we should not forget that.”