Pam Dudding Contributing writer
(Published on May 19, 2021) There are many military Veterans living in Craig County and they have countless stories to share. Some do not mind doing so, while others cringe at the thoughts of horrific times in service and in war that they experienced.
Still, it is real. War is real. Serving your country is real. Life is real and sometimes not pleasant to the eyes or the heart.
In asking several Veterans about their memories of serving, some opened up and shared the following.
“I was recently asked if I would write an article on Armed Forces Day. Our hometown reporter, Pam Dudding, said she knew that I was a career military man, and an active member of VFW Post 4491, so she thought that I might be a good candidate to give any input on this subject,” Kenneth Looney, AECS (Retired) United States Navy, said. “Knowing how much Pam respects, honors and supports our local veterans year after year, I said yes. Yet, after the conversation had ended, I asked myself, ‘What have you just done?’”
He continued, “Armed Forces Day is not one of the most celebrated, or most well-known holiday’s that we observe, so I dare say that most of us don’t know much about it. I will be honest, and I will confess, that I had to do some research on this topic before I could write anything on the subject. After a good bit of time spent on the computer, I think I can now give it my best effort to help enlighten those of you, who are like me, who were standing in the shadows, when asked to talk about this special day.”
Armed Forces Day is the day where Americans celebrate the military. It is held annually on the third Saturday in May and has been observed since August 31, 1949.
Looney noted that unlike Veterans Day, which honors those who wore the uniform and served to defend our nation’s causes, and Memorial Day, which honors those who lost their lives in the defense of our nation at war, Armed Forces Day is the proper day to honor all of the men and women currently serving. The same goes for those who have served and sacrificed to defend our freedom too, both former and active, in the reserves, National Guard, or on active duty at this time, and in any support role defending our Nation.
“I only recall one Armed Forces Day celebration, which was held in Pensacola, Florida, in 1967, when I was a fresh boot Airman (E-2), and scared to even smile, and not even smart enough to know how to shave properly, according to their standards,” he shared. “Being a Navy newbie, I was ordered to stand at attention in the very hot Florida sun, for four hours, and hand salute anything thing that moved, up to and including, the Marine Corps Bull-dog mascot. So, you can probably guess, I wasn’t fondly looking forward to the next Armed Forces Day celebration. But it came and went, and then just became a humorous memory.”
His thoughts continued, “But who would have thought that a young, naïve, backwoods, Southwestern Virginia country boy, would stick it out in the United States Navy for 23 years, and rise up and be promoted to, the rank of Senior Chief” (E-8) Petty Officer.”
His story gets exciting when he was selected number three of 13, out of the eligible candidates, who were striving to claim the title and the promotion to the top enlisted rank of Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9).
“I was very honored and excited to have been selected, but sadly and reluctantly, had to decline the promotion because of government financial constraints. Had I accepted the promotion, I would have been transferred to San Diego, California, and my family to my home of record, here in Virginia,” Looney explained. “It was a very tough decision, but I give praise, honor, and glory to the good Lord leading me, and I chose family, over career, and I have never looked back or ever regretted it.”
Looney said that he shared his life’s history, not to brag on his success, or to be prideful, but “because I just wanted to share with you, and show you, that you can do it as well.”
His statement, “The only thing holding you back is you,” rings a bell in the hearts of many.
“Now I know that the military is not for everyone, and that’s a good thing, but if you are out there and don’t have a clue what your future may hold, then I suggest you give the military some thought. It was a good life choice for me, and that paycheck each month isn’t bad either,” Looney shared. “You may wonder why I choose the military for my career, and it is a very simple answer, patriotism. I was raised knowing that this wasn’t just another word lightly tossed around, but it was a way of life for every red-blooded American citizen who loves this nation, and what it stands for. We were taught to show honor and respect to those in positions of authority, such as police officers, firemen, EMTs, medical staff, and most of all, to the members of the military.”
Looney added that he and his peers knew at an early age the old saying of, “Freedom is not Free, but was paid for by our military, no matter the cost, up to and including, the shedding of precious blood or life itself, for the protection of our way of life.”
He added another old saying that is totally true as well, when we think of our military, “All paid some, but some paid all.”
“That’s why we should always respect and pay honor to our military, and the sole reason that Armed Forces Day was created,” Looney shared with passion. “So, the next time you see a military person, or police person, or some other person of authority, take just a moment and say to them, ‘Thank You for your service’ and shake their hand. Also, a most patriotic thing you can do to show your patriotism is to stop for a moment when you see our American flag, look up, and say loudly for all to hear, ‘Thank You, Veterans, for your service.’ Now that we know more on what Armed Forces Day means, let us remember to pay honor and respect to all our hero’s, who at this very moment are serving to protect our way of life.”
Along with many other Veterans in our community, Looney shared his appreciation, “I thank all Veterans for your dedication, your devotion to duty and your sacrifices in the defense of our freedoms.”
Looney concluded with the adamant statement that, “Yes! It was my honor to serve God and Country, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. May God bless each of our Veteran’s and their families and keep them in His loving care. God bless you and Happy Armed Forces Day to each of you.”