Each year on November 11, Americans pay respect to those who have served our country through the military. It's a national holiday widely known as Veterans Day. For a bit of history, this day was originally called Armistice Day, which marked the end of the first world war in 1918. After 20 million soldiers across the globe had given their lives, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, the war ended.
In 1919 President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. Approximately 19 years later, in 1938, it became an official United States holiday. In 1954 the name was changed from Armistice to Veterans Day to include those who had served in all U.S. wars.
As Americans, it's important to understand our national holidays and their origin to properly pay tribute to the occasion. When it comes to Veterans Day, one of the most thoughtful ways to recognize those who have served our country is to take an interest in their lives.
This is an appropriate time to visit with the veterans you know and respectfully ask about their service and experiences. Listening to their stories can help you gain a better understanding of who they are and provide a personal connection to phrases like "home of the brave." You will have heard firsthand the courage, compassion, and commitment it took for them to serve and protect the people of our country – including you!
Resort Lifestyle Communities loves celebrating our veterans. We have a dedicated wall within each of our communities where we highlight our resident military stars and their backgrounds. And, whether they're a resident of RLC, a family member of our staff, or someone interested in our communities, we enjoy listening to and cherishing their stories.
Our most recent conversation was with Ret. Lieutenant Colonel Bernard J. Clark, a resident of Northwest Arkansas, where we just broke ground on our newest community. In addition to sharing memories about his service to our country, Joe imparts a few words of wisdom for future generations.
Joe served in the United States Air force for more than two decades, which included multiple tours during the Vietnam War. He was also part of Operation Dragon Rouge, a hostage rescue in the Democratic Republic of the Congo conducted by Belgium and the United States in 1964. He delivered troops and cargo during the Dominican Republic riots. And, he was an integral part of the well-known aerial resupply mission during the Battle of Khe Sahn.
Joe was in his mid-twenties when he officially became a pilot, but his passion for flying began at the budding age of seven. Joe marveled at the planes that flew over his home in Lincoln, Nebraska where he grew up. One afternoon, Joe's dad made special arrangements for him to fly for the first time. He climbed into a plane with the owner of the local airport, and Joe recalls seeing the rolling plains and spacious skies from an entirely new perspective that day, and he was hooked.
Fast-forward to Joe's college years, where he met his wife, Sarah, and was enrolled in the ROTC program. Upon graduation from San Jose State, Joe received his second lieutenant commission in the Air Force. His first assignment was as a personnel officer in a Northern California radar site. From there, he was assigned to Fort Lawton, an Army post in Seattle that overlooked Puget Sound. Joe was part of a joint simulation program with the Air Force and Army that tracked unidentified aircraft.
Pursuing his passion for flying, Joe was assigned to Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, where he received his flight training. Throughout his career, Joe primarily flew C-130s, an aircraft capable of hauling large equipment and vast amounts of supplies over long distances. It could land in tight spaces and slow to 125 knots for paratroops and equipment airdrops.
After Oklahoma, Joe served six years at Pope Air Force base, spending a good portion of his time rotating between Southeast Asia and Europe. He had two rotations at the Évreux-Fauville Air Base in France and two at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, supporting U.S. and NATO troops. Joe was in Southwest Asia in 1962, 1964, 1968, and 1972 serving a total of 29 months.
During the 1972 tour, Joe was stationed at Ching Chuan Kang (CCK) Air Base in Taiwan, where he would fly into Saigon and Cam Ranh Bay for weeks at a time to resupply and support U.S. troops.
After Taiwan, Joe was assigned to work in the Pentagon in Washington, DC. His final stop was at the Little Rock Air Force base, where he was Commander of the 62nd Tactical Airlift Squadron (Blue Barrons). Joe retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and was honored for his 22 years of service.
Joe shared a couple of his most memorable experiences serving our country. One was when he was involved in an air evacuation out of Saigon headed to the Clark Air Force Base hospital in the Philippines. Among those injured were two critical patients. The nurse on board told Joe and his navigator the flight had to be smooth for the men to survive. Pockets of thick clouds were common over the Philippines, and as the plane was headed into a buildup of clouds, air traffic control couldn't clearly navigate them through. Joe remembers the navigator onboard taking over the directions as he smoothly landed the plane. The nurse thanked and credited both of them for saving those soldiers that day.
Another story he shared was about a prisoner exchange out of Saigon. Three aircraft were on standby as a US Army General and Vietnam General were negotiating an agreement to return our POWs. As soon as they got the signal, Joe was the first to fly in, land on a jungle strip, and load as many soldiers as they could. They had more people than seats, so the crew rolled out platforms to create a smooth surface for everyone to sit, and they ran tie-downs across the inside of the aircraft for them to secure their legs. Each plane took 100 soldiers back safely to Saigon for the first leg of their journey home. Rescuing 300 U.S. soldiers in total, Joe mentioned one thing people may not realize about the Vietnam War was the large number of prisoners who were held in the jungle and constantly moved around, making it hard to find them.
When we asked Joe about the significance of Veterans Day, he said it's a time for him to reflect on past events and be grateful that he made it home to be with his wife and five children. During his years in service, he gained a new perspective on life and lasting wisdom, such as not dwelling on the past. There are things he doesn't necessarily like to think about, and it's more productive to focus on the positive and be grateful for getting through it all.
For others, Joe suggested using Veterans Day as a time to show reverence for those who didn't return from their tours and have respect for those who are still fighting for us. Reaching out to family members and actively thanking veterans for their service goes a long way.
Finally, we asked Joe what advice he would give the next generation as they consider serving our country. While one of his grandsons plans to enlist in the National Air Guard this year, Joe said there are many ways to serve. Enlisting is certainly a clear path to serving our country, but so is honoring and protecting our flag and all that it represents.
Flags were originally used in warfare to communicate, providing the identification of a friend or foe. In many situations, it signaled safety and a way back home. It still does today. Our flag is a proclamation of victory, a symbol of our freedom, and a tangible emblem to honor those who dedicated their lives to our country.
God bless and big thanks to Ret. Lieutenant Colonel Bernard J. (Joe) Clark for his many years of service and for the time he spent visiting with us. Resort Lifestyle Communities also extends our deepest gratitude to all veterans. We honor you today and always!
Interested in more ways you can thoughtfully honor our veterans? We have a free download of ideas!