When I am out in society, living my day-to-day life, no one knows I am a veteran. Unless, of course, I wear my ball cap with an F-86 on it. With the hat on, people will stop and ask me if I was a pilot. Sometimes they will thank me for my service. At every other moment, my status as a veteran is unknown. I’m sometimes asked it people treat me differently because I’m a veteran. Again, only with the hat on.
Shortly after I returned from Vietnam I was reassigned to Key West as the commander of a radar squadron stationed on the island base. One day, my family was driving to Key West in our station wagon – the four boys, my wife and myself. Passing through a small Gulf Coast town, I was pulled over by a young policeman. He asked to see my driver’s license, and when he saw my military I.D. card he asked if I was in the Air Force; I replied that I was. He then asked if I had ever run across a friend of his and he gave me the name. It so happened he was in my outfit in Vietnam and I knew him well. When I told him this, the young cop that he went bonkers. He said that guy was the best friend he had in the world and that they had grown up together. He told me that as children, they were inseparable.
I said a silent prayer thanking God for this one in a million chance to get out of a ticket – it was my lucky day! The officer went on for five or six minutes telling me all about our mutual friend and then ended up with “Gee! I’m really sorry I have to do this.” He gave me the ticket.
Life as a military vet isn’t much different from the life of an ordinary citizen. We all face difficulties in life. We drive cars, go to the grocery store, grill out during the summer months and do our best to live as well as we can. I wear my hat to remind myself of where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I don’t wear it to receive special treatment.