In writing about American soldiers this week I am including any man or woman in uniform, beginning for purposes of this column in 1941, the beginning of World War II.
My ma and I rode a train to Fort Knox, Kentucky to visit Daddy during that war, and I still have vivid memories of the many uniforms on that train, to match the authentic looking little one I was wearing, and those warriors were kind to Ma and me.
Seems like it might have been the next day that the three of us were in an ice cream shop or something. As the man walked away who had just brought the ice cream, Daddy told me that he was a German POW, and had been a soldier in the famed Africa Corps under Field Marshall Romel. It crossed my mind then a little bit, but many times since I’ve thought of how unusual it was for a fierce enemy warrior to be let loose to walk about freely, and serve ice cream to kids in this country. I heard of German POWS being used as farm labor in the Black Belt of Alabama, and elsewhere, and I was told they seldom had guards over them.
What a country to allow that, and what a country that those prisoners would be trustworthy in a foreign land of the enemy, as they were trusted by America.
There was such patriotism in America in those days, and I still get the tingles to think of being surrounded on the streets of Linden by American Servicemen in uniform, and some women. They loved that uniform, and they loved their country.
As I sat down to write this column, I was pondering on how much America has changed since the ‘40s, how much division among our citizens, how much actual hate between groups, and even outright disrespect for our country and flag, but I still know soldiers here in 2019, and the ones I know, and the ones about whom I read and hear carrying out their duties on foreign fields, still walk proudly in that American uniform, and whether in uniform or civvies, or whether current active duty or veteran, those men and women are American through and through, and you can tell it, whether their skin is white, black, brown, red or yellow. How proud I am of those individuals, how thankful we have them, and how very thankful I am to be one of them.
Veterans and even current active duty soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coastguardsmen, have the right, and do exercise the right to take issue with many aspects of our country and its governing bodies and leaders, and that is the way it has always been, but the point of the matter is that these individuals, with rare exceptions, are loyal and true, and ready to stand in the gap for America, and nothing could cause them to hate the US of A.
Sadly, there is only about one percent of Americans living who have served in our armed forces, but that small percent has made a difference, and that small bunch still causes America haters to take a second look, whether those haters are foreign or domestic.
The Vietnam era notwithstanding, any radical member of congress or most any other group hesitates just a moment before casting dispersion on an American soldier. On the contrary, I am so pleased that fellow Americans are quick to speak up to a soldier or veteran with, “Thank you for your service.”
I certainly know and understand that there will be some readers, even here in the Deep South, who will take some issue with this column, but I believe these facts are basically true, and appreciated. I retired my uniforms quite a number of years ago, but they still hang in a front closet, and every now and then I will get out a set of fatigues, and marvel at how it makes me feel to read a name tape over the right pocket saying, “Boggs.” Then over the left pocket are those everlasting words I love, “U.S. Army.”
God bless us every one in America, and to the few I say, Thank you for your service.
— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.
(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, March 13 issue of the Demopolis Times.)