“We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” Will Rogers
YMCA Member and Vietnam War Vet, Alan’s Story Continued…
Vietnam Veteran and YMCA member, Alan’s Wellness Center work-out discipline built his strength and endurance over the summer of 2017. He said he felt less tired and more alert. These benefits paid off in the functional fitness he needed every day and also for a very special event. On September 30, 2017, Alan joined 39 other veterans on the Leatherstocking Honor Flight from Albany, NY to Washington, DC. Al, a vet friend of his and Honor Flight volunteer, accompanied him. Alan said it was “really something!” A throng of well-wishers and a high school band met them before their 6 a.m. commercial flight. The Southwest Airlines pilot personally expressed his thanks to Alan as he boarded. Alan was quite taken by the reception they received in Washington. Police escorted their 2 buses to the Veteran’s monuments. He said, “It was there we visited the memorials and greeted other vets already there… what comradeship!”
Alan particularly noticed the active duty service personnel who treated them with such respect. He was around the same age when he enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War. Nineteen-year-old Alan traded his job of cleaning out boxcars for an Infantry Medic position. After his basic training in Fort Lewis and 3 more months of training at Fort Sam Houston, he was deployed to Vietnam. He served one year and one day there. He said the guys from his unit bonded together during the ten and a half months he spent just below the DMZ. Alan went on ten to twelve missions. He said they were pinned down by serious artillery on one mission. They young soldiers saw things they never wanted to see, life and death moments that left them “shell-shocked.” Each one processed their combat experiences differently. Some disengaged and never recovered. Alan said his return from the war was “dark on dark.” Prior to serving, he had alcohol use issues. While in Vietnam, Alan began a struggle with drug addiction that escalated once he got back home. In a desperate moment, he cried out, “God, if you are real, I need your help!” After that prayer, drugs no longer worked for him. He asked his parents forgiveness for all he put them through and headed to Bible School. Then he went on to Teen Challenge and became a male counselor. His next job took him to Everett, Washington to work with troubled runaways. He spent the rest of his working years supervising in sheltered workshops and group homes.
Alan was ordained as an Assembly of God minister in 1983. He acknowledges God’s hand on his life. He joined the Army before his daft number came up. In fact, his number would not have been drawn. He considers this a blessing because without this detour, he would not have met his life partner, the love of his life, Sharon. Alan has worked through his war scars…the last was fireworks. A few years he was finally able to sit through fireworks at a B Met’s game. He finds camaraderie in attending monthly Veterans breakfasts at the Blue Dolphin. As an ordained minister, he has been given the privilege of saying the opening prayer. He recognizes the need for Vets to have hope.
Honor Flight History: Honor and Closure
A retired Air Force Captain, Earl Morse, also recognized the unique needs of veteran he served as Physician Assistant in small clinic run by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, in Springfield, Ohio. According the Honor Flight website, many of his WWII vets greatly anticipated the creation of WWII monument, due to open in May of 2004. As the months passed, Morse sadly realized none of his WWII vets visited THEIR memorial. He realized their finances, physical and mental limitations, as well the resources and lack of time of their families prevented them. Since he was also a pilot and owned a plane, he invited one of his WWII vets to fly to Washington for a day. The man wept with gratitude. He extended the offer to another hero.
Members of his 150-member aero club caught the vision. The inaugural Honor Flight took place in 2005. They filled 6 private planes and flew 12 “very happy veterans” to Washington. The pilots and sponsors provide their services at no cost. The Honor Flight program grew as others embraced the idea. Southwest Airlines became the official volunteer commercial carrier. Later, Korean and Vietnam war vets were also included in the “mission.” Alan returned from his flight feeling honored and blessed by the experience he shared with the Leather Stocking group and other Vets he met by the monuments.
(For more info: Veteran Applications, volunteering, donations, flight schedules: https://www.honorflight.org/)
The YMCA History page cites the YMCA’s long tradition of honor and service to our military and veterans beginning with the Civil War:
*Throughout World War I, the YMCA provided morale and welfare services for the military. By war’s end, the YMCA, through the United War Work Council, had operated 1,500 canteens in the United States and France; set up 4,000 YMCA huts for recreation and religious services; and raised more than $235 million—equivalent to $4.3 billion today—for relief work.
*During World War II the YMCA, along with five other national voluntary organizations, founded the United Service Organizations for National Defense, today known as the USO.
*Active duty/family members of deployed military please check this website: http://www.ymca.net/military-outreach/
The YMCA of Broome County express our deepest gratitude for the honored service and sacrifices of our Veterans, Active Duty Military and their families, on Veteran’s Day….and every day!