Once, we were tall and straight. Once, we wore military creases. Once, our shoes would reflect the stars. Once, we knew the 10 General Orders and The Code of Conduct. Once, we were squared away. Once, our chest measured larger than our midsection. Once, our muscles were strong. Once, our haircuts, when we had hair, were high and tight. Once, we walked in measured stride. Once, we could eat half a dozen eggs for breakfast. Once, we fell in formation before the light of day and crawled into the sack after midnight and it was a short day. Once, we aligned our gig line every time we dressed. Once, we knew the chain of command. Once, we waited anxiously for our names at mail call. Once, we complained about the mess, probably the best meals we ever ate. Once, we strapped on parachutes. Once, we bitched and moaned about parades, but stood at attention, marched, and reviewed with honor and pride. Once, we said our goodbyes to our parents, family, and friends, especially our girl friends. Once, we failed to say goodbye to to those that served and didn't come home.
Now, we walk with a walker or cane or the shuffle of unsteady years. Now, we cup our hands around unhearing ears. Now, we squint and fiddle with bifocals merely to see, a long way from the 20/20 we used to be. Now, we hardly eat enough to keep a cat alive and as our
coordination ebbs, we are afraid to drive. Now, our heads are a bit lower, we shave perhaps
every other day, hold onto the shower nozzle and handles to safely turn around. Now we
fumble with easy tasks, like buttoning our shirts. Now, we occasionally forget the day of the
month or the day of the week. Now, we long to hear from family and friends. Now, we spend endless hours reading, remembering, sleeping or watching TV, but for cameras and mirrors we are still 25 years old.
Today is Veterans Day, for those that served, I salute you. Today you stand taller,
walk straighter. You are an American VETERAN. The country is proud of you. Thanks.
Kenny Rogers, Vietnam, USAF
November 11, 2019