May 7, 2018



 

Contact: Robert B. Hunt, QMC, USN, Retired,

Vietnam Veteran, River Patrol Boats, Swift Boats,

Past State and Chapter Commander


2536 W. Falling Star Loop, Post Falls, Idaho

83854-9808 208 773-1074

 



Honor through action

 



I have a confession. I served 20 years on active duty in the Navy and then followed my wife for nine years as she completed 22 years in the Navy. Not once in those 29 years did I go to a Memorial Day event. It was a three day weekend for me when my duty days allowed and I wasn’t about to spend it with a bunch of old codgers at some cemetery. Usually I headed up into the mountains for a camping trip.

 



Three consecutive days off was a rarity for forces afloat and you would have been nuts not to take advantage of the opportunity to go enjoy whatever you liked to do in your time off.

 



After serving three years on the island of Guam in the Marianas Islands, I flew into San Francisco enroute to my next command, an experimental hydrofoil in Seattle. Catching a cab out to Treasure Island, a Navy Base between Oakland and San Francisco, I told the cabby to drop me off at the Chief’s barracks. Three years before I had stayed in the Petty Officer First Class and Chief’s barracks before shipping out the Pacific. The buildings were WWII barracks, clean but old.



 

The cab driver deposited me in front of two, round, 12 stories, ultra-modern buildings. Startling to say the least to see such an improvement from the old world war two wooden barracks.   It was uptown all the way. I walked up to the main entrance and looked down at a large metal plaque. It said: WILBUR COSSON, RD1, USN, Killed in Action, Co Chien River, Mekong Delta, River Squadron Five, River Section 533, Bronze Star, Silver Star, Purple Heart.

I stood in silence for a long time. People walking around me to get in and out of the building must have wondered why that Chief was standing and staring at the bulkhead. Wilbur was my first boat commander in Vietnam and I was there the day he was killed in action.  A massive swirl of thoughts went through my head. I was pleased he was remembered at the site where Radarmen, his Navy specialty were initially trained.
 

While service members and their families understand and accept the risks they take by serving our great nation, nothing can fully prepare a survivor for that knock on that door.

Just last month, three aviation crashes in three different states resulted in seven fatalities: four Marines, two soldiers and an Air Force Thunderbird pilot. This is a tragic loss of life and we honor the following lives cut short in service: Capt. Samuel Schultz, 1st Lt. Samuel Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Richard Holley, Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Connolly, Warrant Officer James Casadona and Maj. Stephen Del Bagno.

 



We are told that we must ensure these individuals are never forgotten, and that their actions stay alive in our memories—and in our hearts. But, the fact is that they will be forgotten as time passes. Individually they will become part of the long line of men and women willing to serve this “great experiment” in self-government. The people of this state honor the dead by their care and concern for living veterans and their families.

 



People say to me, “Thank you for your service”, and I appreciate it. I appreciate those who buy our raffle tickets, those who donated to our Forget Me Nots and Poppy’s. I appreciate all the groups who donate to our projects. Hayden Lake Eagles, CDA Eagles, Combat Vet Riders, Kiawanis, Hauser Lake Gun Club, North Idaho Car Classics, Century Publishing, and many other firms and individuals.



 

Nearly 60,000 names line the Vietnam Wall in Washington, which remains a striking visual of the cost of war. Vietnam is at the half century mark and is close to many of us.

 



Here in Kootenai County we remember individuals like Bob Pendleton, an infantryman with the 31st Regimental Combat Team from the Army’s 7TH Infantry Division who died from cold weather injuries at the Chosin Resvoir in Korea. Bob was medically evacuated to a hospital in Japan where the surgeons were preparing to amputate both hands and both feet when his circulation miraculously returned. He went back to Korea, where in close quarters combat, a Chinese grenade bounced off his helmet and exploded wounding him for a second time. 45 Years later his right foot was amputated due to cold weather injuries. At the Chosin, Bob watched the Chinese 80th Division maul his regiment in below zero temperatures Only about 1,000 men in his regiment survived out of 4,000. The Chinese 80th Division was nearly destroyed and the actions of Bob and Wilbur always wore his helmet cocked back on his head and the bullet hit him right between the eyes where his helmet would have been. What difference that might have made will never be known. His death started one of the most intense periods of fighting I have ever been in. We had a major enemy force being pushed into the sea where we were waiting and they had no intention of going quietly into the night.



 

Treasure Island is closed now and the Navy is gone. Only his family and friends and the few of us left will remember Wilbur. All is not lost though, because he joins that long line of patriots who did their duty without moaning and crying, knowing full well that death was waiting.



 

On every last Monday in May, we find ourselves reflecting on these men and women who so bravely risked life and limb in the face of grave danger. We remember those who left the comforts of home to fight for us and our freedom—but never returned.

While service members and their families understand and accept the risks they take by serving our great nation, nothing can fully prepare a survivor for that knock on that door.



 

The military profession is inherently dangerous work. Just last month, three aviation crashes in three different states resulted in seven fatalities: four Marines, two soldiers and an Air Force Thunderbird pilot. This is a tragic loss of life and we honor the following lives cut short in service: Capt. Samuel Schultz, 1st Lt. Samuel Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Richard Holley, Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Connolly, Warrant Officer James Casadona and Maj. Stephen Del Bagno.

We are told that we must ensure these individuals are never forgotten, and that their actions stay alive in our memories—and in our hearts. But, the fact is that they will be forgotten as time passes. Individually they will become part of the long line of men and women willing to serve this “great experiment” in self-government. The people of this state honor the dead by their care and concern for living veterans and their families.



Nearly 60,000 names line the Vietnam Wall in Washington, which remains a striking visual of the cost of war. Vietnam is at the half century mark and is close to many of us.



 

All of us should reflect on our dead and there is no better place to do that than in the veteran’s portion of the cemetery. It is a walk through history and the various theaters of war. If the dead could speak, I think that they would ask, if their comrades who had been wounded and injured, were being cared for by the nation.



 

I and many other veterans are proud to live in Idaho and Kootenai County. For more than two decades we have witnessed the ongoing generosity of the people who live here. We thank you for all your years of kindness and support and for caring for the wounded and injured.
It is my understanding that the State of Idaho just passed a law reducing property tax on veterans who are 100% service-connected disabled by $1,320 yearly. On behalf of all those families: Thank You! (You can contact the local Chapter by going to DAV9.COM.)(Any group desiring a presentation on the VA and the VA Disability System need only contact me at 208 773-1074)




 

Sincerely,

Robert B. Hunt, QMC, USN, Ret.


Past Department of Idaho State Commander



 

About DAV:


 

DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a non-profit organization with more than 1 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at www.dav.org.


DAV OP-ED offering for Memorial Day