Heroes in Our Midst

This Memorial Day weekend, I dedicate this article to all of the military heroes: those who live among us and those who have died.  My heartfelt thank you for the sacrifices they made to keep us all free.  They and their families truly walk in Christ’s footsteps.

Randy and Becky McConnell

Sergeant Randy McConnell with his wife, Becky.

As a new resident of Nokomis in the community of Sorrento East, I am honored to live among active and retired military service men and women. I recently learned of the heroism and exceptional service of many of my neighbors.  One of these is Randy McConnell, who lives in Nokomis with his wife, Becky.

In an online article published by Don Moore, I learned that Randy served as a Sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division known as the “Screaming Eagles,” an elite modular specialized light infantry division of the United States Army, trained for air assault operations. For his actions under fire in battle, Randy received seven Purple Heart Awards, more than any other living American soldier! And what’s even more amazing is that these were awarded to him for fighting in Vietnam during a period of six months!

In the harrowing months Randy served for two years, 1967 and 1968, fighting with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam during the infamous “Tết Offensive,” Randy also received two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for valor, along with an Army Commendation Medal with a V-Device for valor.

For those too young to remember this intense engagement with the enemy, it was one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War.  The first surprise attacks launched by the North Vietnamese against the South, the United States and our allies, took place on the Vietnamese New Year, known as their “Tết” holiday. Intense fighting continued for many months, resulting in the defeat of the North Vietnamese.

To read more details about Randy’s heroic actions in combat, look up Don Moore’s article at: https://donmooreswartales.com/2015/05/13/randy-mcconnell/. Maneuvering under enemy fire, knocking out enemy bunkers with rifles and grenades, and retrieving the bodies of his fallen brothers, Randy and his men earned a reputation for getting the job done. Randy was wounded multiple times by gunfire and shrapnel, sustaining serious injuries to his neck, his Achilles tendon and ankle.

In Randy’s recounting of the ordeal, our hero returned to the United States with pride, only to be met with the derision of those protesting the war as a result of the political in-fighting and prevailing lack of public support for the war and our military. When asked what his military service and awards mean to him, Randy says: “My military service, though only two years, had profound effect on my entire adult life. It reminds me that freedom is NOT free. I wear my military decorations for those who gave all protecting this country. Veterans represent the best this country has to offer and I am honored to be included in their ranks.”

Personally, I am proud to live in a community where our military heroes are honored and appreciated for their service to our country because without their deeds of valor and courage, we would not be free to enjoy life in this extraordinary state of Florida in the USA. Randy, thank you for your service to our country.

Honoring our Veterans

John Poklemba

John J. Poklemba

Growing up in the 1960’s in Jersey City, New Jersey, I had no clear understanding of what it was like to serve in the United States military.  I graduated high school in 1969, a year scarred by Vietnam War protests and youth’s rage against the “Military Industrial Complex.”  I knew so little then about any of the issues involved, and often went with the flow of popular opinion because I just didn’t know any better and my husband at the time, Warren, was influencing my political point of view.

Later in life, as I matured in age and attitude, my heart broke to see how poorly our military men and women were treated when they came home from what so many called an “unjust war.”  My heart still breaks today to learn that even now, the wounded and families of those returning from war do not get the treatment they need or are kept waiting for months and sometimes years to receive urgently needed services from the U.S. Veterans Administration.

My dad served in Japan during or after the Guadalcanal Campaign in the 1940’s and that’s all I know and I’m ashamed to say how little I know.  My dad didn’t talk about his military service, and although I don’t believe he was involved in actual fighting, I wish he told me about his experiences overseas.  All I have now are a few pictures and a one page summary of his military service record. Mom didn’t talk much about dad’s experience either and to be fair to them, I didn’t ask.

John J. Poklemba, Sr.

My Dad, John Poklemba

So, I urge those who have served or are serving in the armed services today to tell your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews and your grandchildren, as much as you can, and as much as they will absorb.  It’s important because there are valuable lessons that our service men and women have learned that those of us who don’t serve will never have the opportunity to know. The next generation shouldn’t have to wonder or guess at their relatives’ military experience. They shouldn’t have to wonder why they served or how they felt when they returned home. They shouldn’t have to repeat the mistakes of those who have no clue and who may have false impressions or naive beliefs about the importance of a strong military.

That’s why I am offering a FREE Lifetime Book to a Veteran who will spend the time with me to tell his or her story in as little or as much detail as they want.  I will offer this service and one printed book free to any Vet, active or retired, for as long as I am able to write. The first U.S. armed services Veteran to request a book will be selected as my first project.  I can only write and publish one book at a time, so right now, I am looking for one person to work with me on my first Lifetime Book for someone who served proudly in our military.  If you are a Veteran of any war, please contact me by email or phone if you are interested in a free Lifetime Book. I am searching for my first “pro bono” project and I am anxious to begin.

jw@lifetimewriter.com | 908-883-1296 (mobile)

Thank you.