Karl Priest: Every veteran is important (Opinion)

A fellow Cold War vet called me a “Cold Warrior,” and I pointed out that I was only a flunky. So, who would qualify to be labeled a “Cold Warrior?”

Would it be a Navy SEAL who served as a sniper from his hidden perch in the trees? Or would it be the draftee who crawled up a hill with bullets buzzing by? Is a pilot dropping bombs more of a warrior than the pilot flying reconnaissance missions? Is a pacifist medic who serves with the Army in heavy combat less courageous than the soldiers beside him? Is a tank driver less brave than the man who drives a jeep along a mine-infested road? In actual combat, is the guy knocked out by the concussion of a shell blast less worthy of praise than his buddy who charged forward and destroyed the enemy mortar crew?

For every combat veteran, there are thousands of other military personnel doing the jobs they were ordered to do.

A friend of mine served in Vietnam and spent the entire tour in an air-conditioned building doing clerical work. Should he not be proud of his service? Another friend of mine spent two years in the Navy and never went to sea.

How can a man who serves on a sub be compared to one who puts a plane safely onto the deck of a swaying surface ship? Is the crew of a supply ship somehow of lesser value than the crew of a battleship that launches shells to a coast several miles away? Should the crews of my lone-wolf communications ship be considered more heroic than the crews of the aircraft carriers, which were heavily protected by escort ships? Were the officers aboard my ship, who carried the code to launch nuclear weapons, more important than the officers who sat deep in a bunker ready to press the button?

Should a veteran of the Marine Corps be honored more than an Air Force vet? What is the difference between a friend of mine who served as a Marine reservist with a few months active duty and another Marine friend who completed several years with the regular forces?

In May 1968, there was a lot of combat in Vietnam. During the Battle of Kham Duc, over a dozen United Sates soldiers were killed. At nearly the same time, in the lonely North Atlantic, the submarine USS Scorpion was lost, killing 99 crewmen while conducting surveillance of Russians. Which service members were the bravest?

I have no problem with calling some career Special Forces men “warriors.” But, is there a hierarchy of warriors? Is a warrior with 20 notches on his rifle butt more of a warrior than another with only 10? Also, every warrior’s account of battle I have read describes his fear during the action. Does that make him cowardly and only able to succeed because he feared death?

Here is what a Navy SEAL said about one of his operations: “We had numerous naval support personnel backing us up in various specialties such as medicine, radio electronics, legal affairs, mechanics, administration and Special Boat Units.” The author also describes how a Seabee backhoe operator was instrumental in providing protection from incoming missile attacks. (“Meeting God Behind Enemy Lines — My Christian Testimony as a U.S. Navy SEAL,” by Steve Watkins)

It takes courage and determination to honorably complete a tour of military duty. Whether soldier, sailor, airman, Guardsman or Marine — they all are worthy of respect.

Every cook, clerk, mechanic, musician, personnel specialist, pot scrubber, dog trainer and kennel cleaner should be proud of the service they gave to the United States of America.

Karl Priest lives in Poca.

Funerals for Monday, November 18, 2019

Blackwell, Emily - 5 p.m., Coonskin Clubhouse, Charleston.

Buhl, Dolores - Noon, Our Lady of the Hills Catholic Church, Pinch.

Carr, Charles - Noon, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, St. Albans.

Cobb, James - 1 p.m., Siniaville Cemetery, Statts Mills.

Duncan, Maxine - 1 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Evans, Anita - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Mount Hope.

Hedrick Sr., Judson - Noon, Stevens & Grass Funeral Home, Malden.

Honeycutt, Amanda - 2 p.m., Osborne Cemetery, Craddock Fork, Lake.

Jarrell, Michael - 1 p.m., Greene - Robertson Funeral Home, Sutton.

Karnes, Shirley - 2 p.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Stone, Penny - 2 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Wilmoth, Patricia - 7 p.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation Inc., Grantsville.