While stationed in Germany, Tony attended the European Harley-Davidson Super Rally over Memorial Day weekend. It was Europe’s version of Sturgis, South Dakota, and that year it was in Austria. He’d had been recovering from a bout of bronchitis but he wasn’t going to miss what could be his last opportunity to attend a rally in Europe.
So it was: the Patio King found himself on a Sunday afternoon recovering from a crazy night of bikes, choppers, beer, bonfires, and making new friends in a field in Austria. While sitting on a picnic table enjoying the bright sun and the view of the Alps, he began to cough. When he couldn’t stop coughing, he stood up to try to get some air. He bent over, again in an effort to clear his lungs, still coughing like he’d forgotten to breathe.
Tony woke up lying flat on his back, with a crowd gathered around him and a US Army medic nicknamed “Medic Mike” kneeling over him. Tony blinked and then looking around asked, “uh? What’s up?” Astounded at the rapid recovery Medic Mike replied, “Dude, you died!”
His friends then relayed the story. Apparently while coughing he’d collapsed and had respiratory failure which led to cardiac arrest. After bystanders noticed him blue faced and without a pulse, Medic Mike saw the commotion and sprang into action. He cleared Tony’s airway and performed CPR to revive him. No one knew for sure how long he’d been down, but probably no more than three minutes. It was then that the realization that he’d actually been dead for a few minutes struck him.
But you can’t keep the Patio King down, so he looked up and paused for a moment, blinking hard. Tony then asked for a beer. “That is when everyone knew I was going to be OK,” he said later.
There’s a statue of Airman on the Academic Circle at Maxwell AFB, Alabama with a simple inscription: Here I am, send me.
That’s what we thank veterans for on Veteran’s Day. We remember their service because when their country called, asking “Whom should I send? Who will go for us?”, young men and women stepped forward and said, “Send me.”
Ours is an all volunteer military, no one is forced into military service in the United States. That means that our military is staffed with people who, in time of war, volunteered to serve. They said, “Send me.”
To our country’s warriors past and present, God bless you and keep you.