Veterans Day 2017

Veterans Day has always been special in the Ansel family.  My dad Norman Ansel was a world war II veteran of the Pacific Theatre!  One of his best friends was a casualty early on!  My dad was my hero when I was a kid and I always loved getting into the closet where mom kept his army jacket under wraps.  He was a Staff Sgt. and had a couple rows of “ribbons” and a marksmanship medal. Those brightly colored ribbons always caught my eye, and I wanted a “chest” full of them when I went in the army!

My oldest brother Randy was the first of dad and mom’s six (6) boys to go in the service, as he joined the Marines just as Vietnam was heating up!  He met two guys (James Keeler and Pat McElligot) who became his best buddies.  In fact they had plans to join the Michigan State Police when they where done with their commitment to Uncle Sam!  Sad to say that on there very first mission (Operation Double Eagle) James was mortally wounded and died on a hospital ship 3 weeks later. Randy and Pat were devastated, but managed to stay clear of “Charlie” as best they could.  The two of them managed to take two (2) Viet Cong prisoners while on patrol one evening which made their commanding officer happy! Sargent Norman Randy Ansel became a Marine recruiter stateside in the chicago area as his 4 years came to an end.  He and Pat never did join the State Police!  Instead my dad got them into the insurance business, and that’s where they stayed!

I was next in line as I was drafted in December of 1966!  It was one of the largest drafts ever to hit Monroe county.  Several high school buddies were drafted with me.  The guy that wanted to be a hero and earn a chest full of medals was assigned to “Quartermaster school” at Fort Lee Virginia!  In case you don’t know that meant They were going to make a “cook” out of me!  We hated the cooks, K.P. and especially the mess Sgt. I was heart broken!  Turns out being a cook and eventually a baker had a lot more perks than I ever imagined!  I also rose through the ranks quickly and was promoted to Specialist 5th. Class (same as a buck sergeant.)  I stayed state side and the biggest thrill I had was being the assistant 3.5 grenade launcher for our mess hall! No chest full of medals for this “cookie!”

Now brother Darryl was a different story!  He too was drafted and ended up living the Army life I was supposed to have!  Right away his superiors saw his potential, as he was made acting sergeant in basic training.  He was an Infantryman and a crack shoot with the M-16 as well as the 45!  In fact all three of the Ansel boys wore the coveted “expert” marksmanship medal!  Our dad taught us well!  Darryl went to Vietnam after AIT training, and was in the thick of things from the get-go.  He was a fierce “warrior” in battle, and under fire kept his cool!  He saved lives, was wounded, and was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor.  A true hero indeed. He came home with ribbons galore on his chest, and a few scar’s on his back, but never seemed to let his experience define his life.

The last three of the six Ansel brother escaped the service, for which their mother and father were quite grateful.  Those Vietnam years added a lot of grey hair to both mom and dads head!

So that is one of the many reasons I appreciate Veterans Day and stand when the National Anthem is played with my hand on my heart. I also had friends who made the supreme sacrifice! Those among us who have never worn a military uniform or served in combat haven’t a clue about how most veterans feel about those that “take a knee!”

Thanks for your service Veterans!

Mike

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