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Thursday, May 30, 2013
HEROES AMONG US
Yesterday I wrote about Memorial Day, our veterans and my family. The piece was well received by many of you and in keeping with the season, the weeks between Memorial Day and Independence Day, I would like to continue with this theme. As I mentioned, my older brother served in Viet Nam, Desert Storm, and Desert Shield.
Recently I was cleaning out some files and I found something I wrote in March 1991.
When first he went, it was 1970, I was sixteen years old. I knew where he was going and I had a vague idea of what he might be doing, but I certainly did not understand why my brother had to go.
He went with many other young American soldiers to Southeast Asia to fight a war that no one really understood. It was on every newscast, not the 24 hour news cycle we have today, but still it was a lot of information. Yet, no one understood. Without question he proudly did his duty.
Thank God he came home alive, but he was no hero. There were no heroes in 1971. Our dead exceeded 57,000 and our casualties filled military hospitals across this great nation while society turned its back and pretended innocence. Many of those brave men and women who returned often wished they too had died and still we turned our backs.
Twenty years passed and in those people, who came to be my personal heroes, I found strength and valor that I might not have otherwise discovered.
This time when he was called I was thirty six. I knew where they were going and I knew why. They were on their way to the Middle East to protect our shrinking world from a powerful tyrant.
At first I was angry, angry because he had volunteered, angry because he was risking a life that is very dear to me. My anger was followed by an acute feeling of helplessness. In this situation I would have no control.
The day he left I stood in the soft grass on a little knoll for a better view of a man who sees inside my soul. His helicopter was fifth from the end. As they lifted, hovered, and then turned in formation cold rain and warm tears stung my cheeks. I was filled with pride, fear, and hope. Hope for the life of my brother and his friends, fear of the unknown, and pride in those inspiring souls and this wonderful country.
Now they are again coming home. This time there are few injured and fewer dead. I was proud the last time and now I am prouder still. We are all Americans and they are all my brothers. This time they are coming home heroes and with them they bring peace and hope.
Paul D. Alexander
March 4, 1991
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