Current Commentary


Richard Y. Newton, Jr.,
Colonel, USAF (Ret)
Page 1 Of 4 Pages


"The son of the author of this article served as the Commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, one of the two B-52 wings currently active in the USAF, located at Minot, ND. Prior to a visit with his son and family, Richard (Dick) Newton was asked to write an article for publication in the Minot Daily News relating to the contributions men and women who serve in the military have made and are making to our Nation. Dick complied with their request with a document that was published as a series of three articles on August 8, 9 & 10, 2001, in that newspaper. Dick Newton and the editor of the Minot Daily News have been kind enough to authorize us to include that information in this web site.

Dick’s son, completed his tour as the 5th BW/CC in December 2001. He was subsequently: assigned to the Air Staff; promoted to Brigadier General on 1 Aug '03; and, concurrently assigned to the Joint Staff, serving in J-3 as Deputy Director of Global Operations to the present time.
Dick had been asked to write this article for Memorial Day. Although he
missed that deadline, the editor received it in time to publish it coincidentally with his visit and the annual Open House activities at Minot during the cited weekend in August '01.

Chuck Stone, Web Site Developer and Manager

Richard Y. Newton, Jr., Colonel, USAF (Ret)

I defer to your Publisher to explain why someone from St. Petersburg, Florida should be writing in the Minot Daily News about veterans; however, I appreciate the opportunity to do so within our common understanding of three parameters. First, I am proud to share thoughts from the vantage point of thirty-three years in uniform. Second, under the heading of full disclosure, one of my proudest moments was to complete the transition whereby the Commander of the 5th Bomb Wing ceased being Colonel Newton’s son, and I became Colonel Newton’s dad. Together, we represent more than fifty-one years continuous service in the USAF. Third and finally, I do not presume to represent other veterans; however, as I will attempt to point out, I strongly encourage others to share their experiences.

Twenty-four years ago our daughter Kathy and son-in-law El, then a Lt. J. G. in the U. S. Navy, visited us at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Our neighbor, a Vice Admiral and his lady, invited us to their quarters for dinner. The conversation led to commentary on the Navy Times. The Vice Admiral’s wife expressed the dread of reviewing the obituaries therein because the names of so many friends and shipmates were listed. Kathy stated that their search for news about contemporaries focused on the promotion lists. A snapshot of different perspectives shared by six people who have long since retired from their service to our nation.

I am confident that as you review your newspaper, as I do ours, the obituaries of those over 74 years of age commonly include: “He was an Army veteran of World War II” or, “He served in the Navy during World War II.” You could have observed the same for those over 66 years of age as pertain to the Korean War. The operative words are “veteran” and “he served.”

Never forget: thousands of women served in our Armed Forces during World War II, and since. Not all served in the then “traditional” roles of nurse or secretary. Women were then, and are now, an integral part of our Armed Forces who served/serve in “harms way.” With your understanding, future use of only one pronoun in this article is simply an attempt to avoid the awkwardness of “he/she” and/or “his/her.”

Historical perspective is important. In 1941, the year of Pearl Harbor, my 13-year old frame of reference identified veterans as those fathers of friends who had served in World War I. World War I was then 23 years in our rear view mirror. Desert Storm is almost half way there. Vietnam has long since passed that time line.

In 1953, after returning from a combat tour during the Korean War with the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, we lived in Topeka, Kansas. Our neighbor’s father was a veteran of the Spanish American War (1898). Regret number one: I did not slow down enough: to get to know him; to learn from him; and, to gain from the opportunity to benefit from his experiences.

My points: We are not good students of history; and, we do not take advantage of the “primary source” represented by the veterans, whether a two-year draftee/enlistee or a 35-year retiree, who live among us today.

Before we examine each point, in turn, I would offer the strong personal opinion that the term “veteran” should; no, must include the spouses, children, and other family members of those who serve and have served in uniform. From a personal vantage point, I base this on the wife, daughter-in-law, and daughter who have truly been the “Lady without whom we could not have succeeded” as pertains to career service of yours truly, my son, and my son-in-law, respectively. From the distance of having retired in 1979, I remain fully aware that all on active duty today serve more effectively because of the support of loved ones at home; specifically, this pertains today to the more than 125 spouses/families awaiting the return of your neighbors to Minot AFB. From the more macro vantage point of a veteran, we who wore the uniform must never forget the following. They supported those of us who served. They shared fully in the uncertainties of danger and hardship while we were away. They were there when we returned to a family made stronger by their example and commitment to a better future earned by our collective experiences.

First point: We are not good students of history. To illustrate: Would Memorial Day, a May event, have had such a national focus on Pearl Harbor, a December event, were it not for the release of a movie? Too much of what our children and grandchildren know about World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and subsequent conflicts is what has been shown in theaters and on television sets. The post-Vietnam norm on film was to portray the military as irresponsible, traitorous, and/or “baby killers.” Television of that era more benignly showed the military as the Sergeant Bilko buffoon or the Mash undisciplined. Television “news” brought Vietnam into the living rooms of our families; often, shown concurrently with demonstrations against the war. Personal opinion Number 2: The “war I saw on television when I returned in 1968, was not the same I observed from my limited perspective in the 7th Air Force Command Center at Ton Son Nhut Air Base. That could well be the thesis of an entire article; hence, permit me to observe that the movies and television are not primary sources to portray those who were then on active duty, and who are now veterans. These media outlets have projected images / reputations that are not deserved by, not representative of, and not fair to veterans.

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