Editor’s note: LaRee D. Little is 80 years old.
My name is LaRee D. Little, and I am a PROUD Cold War veteran. I was born in 1938 and was 15 years old when the Korean War ended, and by 1965 when things really got heated up in Vietnam, I was 27, married, and had two children.
I am aware that many of my Cold War comrades seem almost embarrassed to admit that when our time came to do our duty no one was shooting at us. Could that Era of Peace be due at least in part to the fact that American troops all over the globe were holding the line?
I served in the army from 1957-1960. After basic training at Fort Knox, Kentuck, I attended eight months of Army Security Agency training at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I then served 20 months with the 182nd USASA Company at Rothwesten Kaserne near Kassel, Germany, followed by three months with the same company at Herzogenaurach Base near Nurnberg. I served as a radio teletype intercept operator, and our duty was so secret that even we didn’t know what we were doing — “Just following orders, Sir.”
On Aug. 26, 1960, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, those of us who were being discharged from active duty were addressed by a captain who apparently had lost one leg in Korea. He assured us that just because we had not faced enemy fire we shouldn’t think that our service to our country was any less valuable than that of those who had. It didn’t take long to discover that apparently was this just one more GI (Government Issued) lie.
Over the next five years I worked, married, started a family, and in 1965 — without benefit of the GI Bill — completed my first college degree. Before that year was over the peacetime GI Bill took effect and it helped me pay the cost of my master’s degree, but there was no retroactive reimbursement for the college work I had already completed.
I appreciate the sacrifice of those who served during wartime, and I would never try to compare my service to that of those who faced hostile fire and who may have been injured or killed in service to their country. But neither I nor anyone else ever chose the time and circumstances of his or her birth, and along with that the possibility of service during armed conflict. Like everyone else who has served honorably, I followed orders.
I spent nearly two years within miles of the Iron Curtain and every month we stood an alert to prepare for the possibility that the Russians might do something stupid. And if they had, I would have continued to follow orders.
I am now 80 years old and the time approaches when I may eventually require assisted living care. Had I served during a time of armed conflict — and even if I had never left the safety of the continental USA — I would be entitled to financial assistance for such care. Once again, however, because no one was shooting when I served I am not eligible for that benefit.
There was a saying back in those days — that I never really understood — that a complaining soldier is a happy soldier, so I guess I must still be a happy soldier.
I am proud of my service to my country. I stand and salute when I hear the National Anthem, and I enjoy wearing clothing that identifies me as a veteran. And as I purchase additional veteran’s clothing it will be clearly marked “Cold War.” I am not embarrassed that I was never shot at — but that was not my choice. But I know that if I had been, I would have done the same as those who were, which was to follow orders. (Please note that this is the fourth time I have used the term “follow, followed or following orders.”) Yes, it is was and still is that important.
Although I won’t be around to see it, I am proud to know that when I am laid to rest my casket will be covered by the American flag, and that those who remain will hear the sound of Taps. And maybe a few will also shed a tear as I often did when Taps was played, not for me but in honor of all who served. And I will lie under a marker that will forever identify me as a veteran.
God bless the USA. I love you.