Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day: Talking with one of Illinois’ 628,000 vets

Robert Richmond

     Robert Richmond was 17 when his grandmother took him to the Army recruiting station and signed the papers.
     The year was 1955. The Korean war had just ended.
     ”I went to Korea 16 months,” he said. “I got over there in July of ‘55. I was on the clean-up.”
     Why did he enlist?
     ”There wasn’t anything going on around here,” said Richmond, who grew up on the South Side, near 37th and Indiana,
     I met Richmond last week on the No. 3 King Drive bus. I noticed his Army baseball cap and we got to talking. He was on his way downtown on a few errands and I tagged along.
     Richmond, who like most vets never saw combat, has no regrets about enlisting. He’s glad.
     ”Yes,” he said. “Because it gave me the ability to be a man. Responsibility. I learned how to get up in the morning and do manly things. Things that I needed to do, like taking care of myself.”
     Richmond is one of about 628,000 veterans living in Illinois, according to the Veterans Administration, with 20.4 million veterans nationwide.
     The bus stopped at Randolph Street.
     ”Coming out, wheelchair,” he called out, working the joystick on his electric chair.
     First Richmond visited —choosing my words carefully—a social organization whose commitment to anonymity is equal to its commitment to temperance. To buy a commemorative coin for himself—18 years in January—and one for a relative.
     ”It’s a blessing,” he said, of the anniversary. “It’s a miracle.”

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  1. Thanks for that Neil. Vet stories don’t have to be about what they did when they served. Lives matter.

  2. A good antidote to the usual coverage of veterans as homeless derelicts afflicted with from PTSD. Bringing attention to the personal cost of war is important, but it can obscure the fact that most who serve escape the dangers of direct combat and for many the experience helps them get an edge on life.


    1. Right Tom, most casualties in the Pacific theater during WW2 were non combat. Even PTSD has different levels of disability. The VA does the best it can with current resources, I can vouch for the Lovell facility and Senator Duckworth lauds Hines. But when I see Wounded Warrior ads on TV it irritates me that we have to beg Americans to take care of our wounded. That the Veterans Administration does have the funding to provide for all disabled veterans needs in a national embarrassment. When they rank the nations hospitals, the top ten should all be VA facilities, not those catering to the wealthy.

    2. Meant to say the VA does NOT have the funding. Shouldn't post without double checking.


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