The Passing of Our Veterans

By | September 23, 2020

[September 23, 2020]  General Douglas MacArthur once said that “Old soldiers never die – they just fade away.”  He was talking symbolically, of course, because our soldiers and our veterans do pass away, and being who we are, we must confront that end of life with dignity and with honor.

A good friend of mine who served with me in combat is dying.  This news I received this morning is depressing, but I am glad that he called me to say so.   He lives far away, so I will not see him again, but that does not mean we cannot talk … and talk we have done.  My wife and I sat together to hear him tell of the times we experienced together as soldiers doing our duty that we were sworn to do.

Sitting on a rooftop of our headquarters building in late 2004, eating an MRE, he spotted the first mortar round coming our way.  By the time I looked up, we had heard it pass by.  We kept eating our MREs.  After several more mortar rounds landed nearby, we thought it the better part of valor to go inside, put on our armor and grab our rifles.  I remember smiling and saying, “They haven’t got us yet.”  Kind of a dumb comment to make, but it was true.

We continue to hear about how so many young people are protesting “systemic racism” in our country today.  I’m not so sure about that.  My friend and I had people of all races, creeds, and backgrounds in our Engineer unit.  It did not matter where you were from, what religion you were, or the color of your skin.  What was important was your word and whether you dared to walk onto the battlefield with the rest of us.

The battlefield is a tricky place to be.  For those who never experience the sights and sounds of battle, consider yourself lucky.  I hope and pray you never get to see it.  My friend and I had very different backgrounds.  We were Army Combat Engineers, but he was from the “city,” and I was from a town so small it still doesn’t have a traffic light.  He grew up Catholic; I was Southern Baptist.  He lived in the Northeast, and I lived in the Deep South.  But we hit it off immediately.

I remember him teaching me several Taekwondo moves to take down an opponent.  You never know when you’ll need a little advantage against an aggressive enemy.  One day we were not allowed into a Special Forces compound at the south end of the military complex.  I asked the guard if the SOF guys had adequate power, water, food, sewage, and electricity.  He said, “no.”  I told him that the two guys sitting here in the HUMMV were responsible for them all and that tomorrow they would have nothing.  We were allowed in and given the VIP tour.

Dying is something we all do.  Nature eventually catches us.  He is only 55 years old, too young to die.  As I write this, they are taking him to the Emergency Room.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “The Passing of Our Veterans

  1. the ace

    Hi Gen. Satterfield. Too bad about this. Today’s article on ‘seeking experience’ and your war story is clearly connected to this article on the passing of our veterans. I’m surprised someone has not yet pointed that out. Excellent work, by the way. Thanks.

  2. Tracey Brockman

    My comments may be a bit late but I also believe we should honor our vets (esp. those that spent a long time in our military services) every single day and not just on days like Vets Day on Nov 11th. Yes, we should go out of our way to thank them. I think our Vietnam Vets are especially in need of thanking!!!! They were mistreated by so many and disrespected by many politicians and traitors like Jane Fonda.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Yep! Jane Fonda is a traitor. She should forever be reminded of it, not because it is punishment (which it is) but more critically since it sends a message to those who have done traitorous acts and got away with it. They will forever hear in their minds that the citizens of the US consider them also traitors.

    2. Georgie M.

      Hanoi Jane ! Where is she now. Probably Hollywood where all the pedophiles and womanizers are.

  3. Wendy Holmes

    Hi … appreciate you telling us your story of your friend. This is a good break from the daily “leadership” dose.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Good point but I also like the “daily leadership dose.” Gen. Satterfield, well done. Pass along our best wishes to your friend and, of course, his family as well. Please update us later. I hope your friend’s health improves. He is too young to pass away. Our vets have so much to give. Amazing.

    2. Len Jakosky

      More leadership posts are okay with me. This one was also good but let’s not overlook Gen. Satterfield’s point that our veterans are passing away at an alarming rate and we lose a lot when they do. We should honor them. Upcoming is Veterans’ Day. This is another opportunity to honor them publically.

  4. Big Al

    Roger on this article, Gen. Satterfield. I’ve too had my friends pass away and it is always a big loss. You sharing this particular experience gives me new hope that others will replace us that are also great patriots.

  5. Army Captain

    Our prayers are with him and his family. I agree, the passing of our veterans is a sad situation but that is what life is also about. We do our time here on earth and we should do it honorably with our heads held high.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Yes, otherwise we are no better than the animals that roam the planet.

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