2018-06-09 / Viewpoints

The Old Timer

By Howard ‘Mac’ McDonald

By the time this column is printed, the anniversary of D-Day will have come and gone. On June 4, 1944, Allied Forc­es engaged in World War II stormed the Normandy beaches in northern France and braved a hail of enemy gunfire.

Some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch. Can you imag­ine what went through the minds of those brave men as they emerged from their vessels and stepped onto those beaches? It would be hard today to find that kind of bravery.

World War II was also hell on the home front. More than 400,000 service members never came home. Hundreds of thousands more were injured. Those who did come home sometimes found that their marriage had gone down the tubes.

Many World War II vets had shell shock and nightmares. Mental help was scarce. Our veterans of Korea and Viet­nam faced the same challenges. Now, the 100-Year War in the Middle East has kept the horrors of war in the public eye. When George W. Bush got us into that unwinnable war, I gave it that name and so far my prediction has been true.

Freedom is not free. We should all be grateful to those who have served to protect it.

Our valley in Arizona closed out the month of May with triple-digit tempera­tures. The forecast called for 106, but we had it made in the shade at Apache Junction when it peaked at 103.

Summer arrived here ahead of sched­ule and there has been no rain since March 14. Fire restrictions are in place. It’s a safe bet that some moron will ac­cidentally set off a fire and away we will go. Lightning strikes far off the beaten path are often the cause of wildfires here.

The firefighters who are pressed into service are heroes in my eyes. They have to negotiate rough terrain and they run the risk of getting trapped. Ponder­osa pine easily ignites and fire spreads rapidly in those tree stands.

It was not all that long ago that 19 firefighters were trapped and lost their lives. We should all pray for the safety of the crews who respond as soon as the alarm sounds.

We wait patiently for the monsoons and their promise of rain. They are wel­come, as long as they don’t blow over your house. They can either be a bless­ing or a curse.

Watching the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns brought back a lot of memories.

I’ve written before about the trip Ken Gerg, my grandson Howard John and I made to Arlington National Cemetery. The changing of the guard is an impres­sive ceremony.

Although I am eligible to be buried at Arlington, I would prefer to have my ashes taken up Rich Valley and have them placed where my nephew Billy McDonald’s are at the In-Crowd Camp. Ed Labrozzi built a monument there and I would be honored to rest there. Maybe it will happen and maybe it will not. It will depend on whether my family hon­ors my wishes.

When I die, I might not go to heaven. They might not let old Air Force ser­geants in. So take me back to Cam­eron County, because that’s as close to heaven that I’ve been.

Every once in a while, a song will come on my classic country channel that gets my mind in gear. It happened to me today when they played Ronnie Milsap’s “Lost in the ‘50s Tonight.”

That was a hell of a decade for this old-timer. On Nov. 11, 1950, I gave up my ways as a single man, which was a big change.

Also in 1950, I had just reached the top of my career field and had a rating as a journeyman lineman in Local 50 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, so I was starting to make the big bucks.

On July 7, I received my draft notice and that’s when the manure really hit the rotating blades. As I have written before, I had failed to inform the draft board that I was married and we were expect­ing. I had to play some politics to get myself enlisted in the Air Force instead of heading to Fort George Meade in Maryland as an Army grunt.

After basic training, it was off to Alas­ka for two years in what was considered an overseas tour at the time. I was now at the ripe old age of 22.

Double tragedies struck in 1954. My best friend Richard “Nick” Knicker­bocker lost his life in a plane crash on Feb. 5. Then, on May 16, my father died.

I was transferred to Greater Pittsburgh Airport for two years. Then in July 1956, I went to Europe for five years. That was followed by service back home in the land of round doorknobs.

I can’t keep up with the baloney about one celebrity saying something offensive about somebody and another celebrity saying something nasty about somebody else. As my readers know, I am very sensitive and because of my tender ways, any criticism sends me into a fit of depression. If you believe that, then I will sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

I do not believe in being politically correct. According to the First Amend­ment, you don’t have to abide by the rules of a political party when you share your opinions. Don’t ever cave in and be afraid of saying what is on your mind.

There was a story in the paper about the impending bankruptcy of the Social Security system and Medicare. Politi­cians try to sell us on the idea that So­cial Security is an entitlement program.

That is very far from the truth. Welfare, food stamps and all the free programs that many Americans and even some illegal aliens are privileged to receive are examples of entitlement programs. Those of us in the working world paid into Social Security for years and years. Our employers also paid.

When Congress found a way to tap into this fund, it started a landslide that can’t seem to be stopped.

Members of Congress do not under­stand how most of the common folks live. They all get free health care, gen­erous retirement packages, paid holidays and vacation, unlimited paid sick days, and you name it. Now that’s what I call an entitlement, yet they have the nerve to call our retirement income an entitle­ment?

Some people work the system, but most people depend on some of these programs to survive. Like I said, there are abusers.

Our retired seniors live on a fixed income and receive no aid or tax loop­holes. In this land of plenty, we have homeless people, including some of our veterans. Children are going to bed hungry. The elderly are going without needed meds and the mentally ill are go­ing without treatment.

Keep your powder dry and don’t be afraid to speak your mind.

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