MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN – VETERANS DAY
“We all have stories to tell”
Flying into Bagram Air Field makes passengers temporarily forget the war on terror in Afghanistan. The jet’s banking tight turns near the mountains almost allows the passengers to reach out the windows and pat the layer of snow on the tallest peaks. Upon our landing at the massive air field north of Kabul, however, jars any fleeting thoughts of nature’s beauty overtaking the sights and sounds of war because of the constant roar of jet engines and the whirl of helicopter blades.
For those serving in the military, Sunday was another day here at Bagram. No parades, no special breakfasts or lunches to remind them of their special occasion, Veterans Day.
Yet, for me, coming to Bagram makes the war come closer to home. While 99 percent of those deployed to Bagram have no idea of the meaning behind the naming of Disney Drive, the air field’s main drag has signs strategically placed to tell the story of Fallon’s Jason Disney who became one of the Afghanistan war’s first casualties. It has been humbling to tell his story to those who are here now.
Veterans Day, though, has a special meaning for a special fellowship of men and women who have served or are currently donning the uniform to defend our freedom and way of life. Military men and women put in long hours for modest pay and, on many occasions, are away from family on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. It is for that exact reason, however, that I will be with a Nevada Guard unit on Thanksgiving for our soldiers to share their thoughts on being separated from their loved ones on such a special holiday.
Furthermore, it doesn’t make a difference if our veterans have been in a war zone on multiple tours or one because dangers face them every day, and the enemy doesn’t take a day off.
Veterans Day has passed in Afghanistan but is being honored today at home, I challenge residents in any community to know a veteran better by hearing his or her story of duty and sacrifice.
Being a journalist has given me that opportunity to know some of our veterans better, and especially those who fought during World War II. Sadly, this is a generation of military men and women that is slowly disappearing and without many of us knowing the sacrifices they made.
Cecil Quinley’s exploits during the second world war was one of my most enriching interviews. It was equally interesting to have his wife, Margaret, involved with the story telling because she shared their love story of how she missed her husband after he shipped off to Europe and how she coped when he became a prisoner of war. Their love has endured over all these years since they said their vows almost 75 years ago.
Five years ago when a restored B-17 appeared at the Reno Air Show, I learned of Cecil’s time spent on the Flying Fortress. Now in his late 90s, Cecil’s mind was still vivid in describing the details of his 14 bombing missions over Germany. On the 14th, though, the Germans shot down Cecil’s plane, thus forcing the crew to parachute into the countryside. Eventually, the Germans rounded up the crew including Cecil, and they spent the final 15 months as POWs.
Or the late Argus “Gus” Forbus, who passed away earlier this year. His son James provided me with a manuscript that he and his father had put together, telling about Gus’ time spent in the U.S. Marine Corps and the different battles in which he fought.
Or Al Pierre, who joined the Navy in 1943 when he was 18. He initially spent time aboard three ships including an LSM (landing ship medium-transport). Shipmates, like others who have served in any branch of the military, joined their Navy brothers in our area in 2010 when the Western State Chapter of the USS LSM/LSMR Association met for its annual reunion.
Sharing memories makes these reunions special.
From that World War II generation to the generation of men and women who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, stories still abound including how former Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center commander, Vice Adm. Mark Fox, was one of the first Navy aviators to fly over Baghdad in January 1991 when the United States began bombing the Iraqi capital to force the Saddam Hussein regime to pull out of Kuwait.
Or the stories from the hundreds of our local men and women representing all branches of the service, especially who all have stories stemming their service.
Thank you veterans – young and old – and thank you to the thousands who have posted on social media their support for our veterans.
Steve Ranson, who retired in 2009 after serving 28 years in the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, is editor of the Lahontan Valley News and is in Afghanistan to cover the men and women who serve with the Nevada Army National Guard. He also spent Veterans Day overseas last year covering both NSAWC’s role with a carrier air wing in the Arabian Sea and the Nevada Guard at Kandahar and Bagram.