Delta Co 11th LIB
Americal Heraldic

Delta Company 1/20

Delta Company, 1st Of The 20th, 11th Light Infantry Brigade
Americal Division


Reflections of a Delta Company Vet 2006
By Cliff Tholen

I am looking out the window on a stark winter landscape. Although the snow has dressed the trees with a dusting, the contrasts are still gray and white. They meld with the sky as well. A little closer inspection shows the woods to be alive with birds and squirrels all busily going about their lives. The basic nature of it all has a certain inherent beauty. I reflect back on the other things I have seen through this same window, the brilliant fall colors, the beauty of God's creation as manifested in His deer and brightly colored birds. It gives one pause to reflect.

So often I think of the men in Delta Company and the lives we led in our youth. My thoughts turn to one of my favorite old hymns, "Amazing Grace". In that grand old hymn, there is a line, "…through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come…"

How true this is of us. How many dangers did we face in firefights, from booby traps, and even from our own? Danger from enemy soldiers, friendly fire, from working with dangerous and intentionally lethal devices. How many bullets did we dodge, how many pieces of shrapnel barely missed us. Why did we come home when so many of our comrades did not? How do you relate to someone (who has only known the safety and security of our country) the feeling that someone, at any moment, may violently end your life or the life of a friend? How can you explain that, despite the risks, we intentionally and aggressively exposed ourselves to mortal combat out of a sense of duty, that we bonded with our fellow soldiers to the point that we would risk life and limb on their behalf?

The toils of an infantryman almost cannot be described. The sacrifice and deprivations, the lack of shelter, warm food, or the weight of a fully loaded pack defies accurate description. Remember how hard it was to take the first few steps of the day, how it seemed almost impossible to even stand up? How do you describe trekking through mountainous, jungle terrain in ninety-degree heat, high humidity and a load of fifty or more pounds on your back? Unless you have been there, you can't understand what it is like to climb hills all day or forge streams that are chest deep. Who, but an infantryman can remember wading thru leech filled swamps or triple canopy jungle, or frantically digging in on an exposed hill top, while under fire, after a combat assault?

The snares we faced were many. Our unit was blessed with some truly religious men. Regardless of rank, they helped set a moral tone that distinguished us. This is not to be arrogant or claim that we were without fault, rather my recollection is that, while we were not aloof from it, we tended to be less involved in compromising behavior.

As citizens of this great nation we are truly blessed. We live in an environment of freedom, freedom to express yourself, to disagree, to instigate change for institutions. We are free to worship (or not worship) as we please. We have a land of opportunities and a history of rewarding those who look to partake of them. We live in a land where those who for whatever reason chose not to pursue opportunity still have a good chance for a rewarding and comfortable life. This is in contrast to what we have seen as soldiers, In the areas where we worked, subsistence level living conditions predominated, especially in the rural areas. Poverty was the norm, not the exception.

I think of our soldiers today, once again engaged with a nebulous enemy that hides and takes a toll without direct confrontation. I hear of the casualties. One of my jobs at work is to lower the flag to half-staff whenever a soldier from our state is KIA. It is heart wrenching to think of the loss of one of our own and the impact it has on families, friends, and communities. At the risk of sounding xenophobic, I value our soldiers more than their adversaries. I pray that the Good Lord will watch over them, guide them in their actions, and bring them home safe and sound. I pray that their cause will always be a just one, not a political adventure. I pray that the end result of their extraordinary effort, their dangers, toils, and snares, will result in a world that is freer. I pray that the Afghan and Iraqi people will prosper and develop states that, even though religiously oriented, will tolerate other faiths and use the religious differences to create understanding and mutual respect, to be prosperous, loving, and mindful that all things come from God.

My son participates in a truly American sport, stock-car racing. I have accompanied him to the track on numerous occasions. The pageantry and exhilaration are always inspirational. It is a sight to behold, with all the brightly colored cars, the noise, the incredible beehive of activity in the pit area, and the anticipation of an awesome entertainment event. As with most sporting events, the events are prefaced with the National Anthem. The words seem to ring so true and clear that it can bring a lump to this old soldier's heart.

When, near the conclusion, we sing "…for the land of the free…" I look into the stands. I see a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon where families are getting ready to watch the races, kids eating cotton candy, Moms looking after the kids, and Dads looking at the race cars. All of this in an atmosphere of festivity and celebration. Free people basking in their freedom. Something we are so fortunate to have in this country. Something so many people in so many other places can only dream of.

It is the last words of the National Anthem, "…and the home of the brave" that are so touching. These are the words that bring my thoughts back to Delta Company, and the men we served with. Our sacrifices, along with the sacrifices of veterans in many other eras, some past, some present, and sadly some to come, have made and will continue to make so much possible for so many people.

God Bless America!

Cliff Tholen

 

 

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