By Bill Schmidt
I was raised in Texas in the 50’s and early 60’s with two brothers, both older, and two sisters, one older, one younger, by a sainted mother. Mom worked for 25 cents an hour at a well-off family cleaning and cooking. She walked uphill going and downhill to home at the A&M Trailer Park.
My father didn’t care much for his family so he was absent for years at a time. He was a welder so he made good money for the times but sent very little home. Like so many people, we scraped by, almost never missing a meal. Mom made sure of that. We were a very tight family that loved each other, our great country, and our God.
When I was a senior in high school, my brother joined the Marines knowing full well he was headed to Vietnam. We grew up watching John Wayne’s war movies along with all the rest on TV. I really believe that is where Jim and I became patriotic. Although they were just movies, it was what they represented that meant something to us. Men were living and dying for America in jungles, deserts and mountains. We knew World War II really happened and the movies made it that much more real. We played war at every opportunity.
Jim was only in Vietnam for four months when he was seriously wounded while moving forward across a rice paddy. Vietcong opened fire on his platoon with machine guns. Three bullets hit his M14 rifle he carried at port arms. He was hit in the left forearm. The heavy rifle saved his life by absorbing and deflecting two of the bullets. God was with Jim that day. His war days were over.
I had graduated and was working and supporting my mom when Jim arrived back in the States. Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from the War Department advising me that my name would be in the next lottery for the draft.
I decided to join the Navy instead of being a ground pounder in the Army. I think my decision was influenced by John Wayne’s movie, “They Were Expendable.” After a year of shore duty at NAAS Chase Field in Beeville, Texas, I volunteered for river-warfare in Vietnam.
I spent a year fighting in the large and small rivers in the Mekong Delta south of Saigon. I was wounded in the right arm but stayed to finish my tour of duty. I also had God with me. I came home to very hostile anti-military demonstrations. I knew I was fighting for America against communism and still do even more so with the events that are unfolding daily.
There are many things that my life, my family, and the armed forces instilled in me that focused and became sharper throughout my many years. In this country it was me, myself who was going to determine where and what I was going to do with my life. Others would influence me to degrees but the choice was mine.
No other country on earth offered the range of freedoms that America did that is guaranteed by the most thought-out document ever written. The Constitution is as viable today as it was when it was so diligently conceived and executed. The wisdom of none other than God Almighty was the influence of so many of our forefathers who constructed this miracle document known as the Bill of Rights and Constitution.
Discipline any life with its protected rights and privileges and, most of all, the living spirit that speaks with every word that is read, and you will have gratifying success, and a true connection to America that has remained strong, compassionate, and vigilant through hundreds of years.
It is my privilege to have been able to pass on my patriotism and love of country to my daughter, two grandchildren, and four great grandchildren along with many of their friends. I would be proud to defend America again. In a heartbeat. God Bless America.