Saturday, November 18, 2006


The View From The Cheap Seats
By Jerry Haferkamp

I’m writing this column on Veterans’ Day. On this day and on Memorial Day in particular I am prone to thinking about the guys I served with in Vietnam that didn’t make it back alive.

While searching a web site on the Vietnam “wall”, I found the name of the first soldier in our company who died in Vietnam just 53 days after his arrival. He was one of 8 killed and 27 wounded when a company sized Viet Cong unit ambushed one of our convoys. We trained in the States as a unit and deployed as a unit, so we knew each other pretty well. His name was Robert Lyle Stebner. Prior to leaving the States, I remember him telling us that his wife became pregnant during one of his recent leaves. He joked that she wanted a son to remind her of him in case he didn’t make it back. In a few months it was no longer a joke. His loves were his wife and his classic ’63 Studebaker Avanti.

Thinking of her leads me to today’s column.

I want to give a heartfelt salute to the veterans who possibly didn’t wear a uniform. There are many out there right now living with the daily question of whether they will see their soldier, sailor or Marine again. Some are parents of those currently deployed and there are even a few who remember the days worrying about their son or daughter in Vietnam, or Grenada, or Somalia. Some are spouses that are holding down the home front while raising children without their “other half”.

While I was in Vietnam, my wife joined a group called the Waiting Wives. They would get together to go to dinner or just play cards and talk. I hope such groups still exist.

Whether you agree with this war or not, these men and women in uniform are doing what they need to do and are trying to make us safe.

For those of you who have a relative or just a friend who is serving or has served in the past, “Thank You”. You are the rock that supports them and although they may be too busy to write, I know they are thinking of you. We did. I thank you as well as them on this Veterans’ Day.

I’ll close with a quote I recently read and believe says it all:

“Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
1. Jesus Christ
2. The American G.I.

One died for your soul, the other for your freedom”

That’s the view from the cheap seats.