VETERANS DAY 2011
November 11, 2011 marks 14,208 days since I became a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. At 1313 Greenwich Mean Time on 18 December 1972, in the skies over Hanoi, my B-52 was hit by a Soviet-built SA-2 missile. Some say that the number 13 is an unlucky number. In fact, this is almost a worldwide belief. You will rarely see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor. Perhaps 1313 was not a good number for me, and it certainly was not a good number for my three crewmembers killed that night. But I was fortunate – I lived, survived, and continue to live.
But, look at the back of a one-dollar bill and think about this:
- 13 original colonies
- 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence
- 13 stripes on our flag
- 13 steps on the Pyramid
- 13 letters in the Latin above (annuit coeptis): “God has favored our undertaking.”
- 13 letters in “E PLURIBUS UNUM”
- 13 stars above the Eagle
- 13 plumes of feathers on each span of the Eagle’s wing
- 13 bars on that shield
- 13 leaves on the olive branch (we are a people of peace)
- 13 fruits, and if you look closely
- 13 arrows (we must sometimes fight to win the peace)
- And for minorities: the 13th Amendment.
Why don’t we know this? Your children don’t know this and their history teachers don’t know this. Too many veterans have given up too much to ever let the meaning fade. Many veterans have endured extreme torture and deprivation at the hands of America’s enemies. Many veterans remember coming home to an America that didn’t care. Too many veterans never came home at all. But all of them – the returning soldier, airman, marine, sailor – the Prisoner of war and those whose fate is known to God alone fought to defend the Constitution of the United States against foreign enemies.
Whenever you look at a one-dollar bill again, think of the veteran who fought to win and sustain our freedom, who gave a part of his life for the freedom of our allies, who placed himself between his beloved home and war’s desolation. Tell everyone what is on the back of the one-dollar bill and what it stands for, because nobody else will.