The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Harry Neal, National Membership Director, Spring 2012 American Veteran Column

The Unseen: Reasons to be in AMVETS

He leans over the rail staring into the blue water over the USS Arizona Memorial. His hair is gray. His wrinkled hand clasps the rail as he stares below, motionless.  He is visiting a place and seeing faces only he can see. The solitude allows a glimpse into days gone and friends passed.  He still sees the fire and oil on the water.  He still feels the warmth of the setting sun on his face as he releases his grip on the rail and turns to his quietly waiting wife.  He knows he is one of the fortunate soldiers, yet he doesn’t know why. He joined AMVETS in 1949.

The early morning rain shines on the black granite as he carefully runs his finger on the name etched in the black stone. He is alone, it’s early, and there are no distractions as he looks deep into the stone. He sees his face, he remembers the day. It was wet, but hot and humid. They were in country for a month, shared everything in 30 days. Today they share another drop of rain as it runs down the black granite wall. He knows he is lucky, but doesn’t know why. He is 62 and in AMVETS.

He watched his friend as the hummer slowly rolled down into the ravine in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. He was thrown out. He ran to the bottom of the hill, it was too late for his body was lifeless. He sat for hours wondering what happened. All the machine gunning in the world wouldn’t bring him back. He saw a huge black hole inside. He rotated home and started and stopped a few times. His mom found him hanging in the woods.  He will never be 25. AMVETS knows his story and will do better. 

We hear the drone of the bagpipes and watch the solemn walk to the draped table with the empty chair and the turned glass, no drink will be poured. The lemon and salt speak silently to the bitterness of loss and tears as a family continues the vigil.  We look at the name of the soldiers in the light of the flickering candles on our tables. My card silently speaks, George Samson. Where is this lost soldier? He wasn’t found on the field of battle, we have no news.

Remember—all of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended on their might and relied on them, for surely they have not forgotten you. Present the honored guest.”

The unseen are reasons to join our team.  We all see the faces of soldiers we served alongside. They will be with us forever. They will leave when we leave. AMVETS ceremonies reinforce our determination to ensure soldiers missing in action are not forgotten. AMVETS is determined to stand up to Congress and say,  “don’t cut the benefits you promised!” AMVETS is dedicated to help returning veterans get the benefits they were promised. We are determined to find jobs for returning soldiers. Less than 1 percent of Americans answer the call of duty, yet our strength is in our numbers. Are you counted? Stay determined and focused to make sure America’s promises are kept. Join us in service.

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