By Art Gallagher
Today, November 11, 2016 the mainstream media is focusing on a few kids who are protesting the outcome of the presidential election in their safe spaces.
I prefer to honor those 1,000,000 men and women who have sacrificed and experienced unimaginable horrors to protect our American way of life that gives those of us who are ridiculing the protesting kids from our own safe places.
I recently had the privileged of beginning to get to know one of those young men, Staff Sergeant (Ret) Matthew O’Neil. Matt is the eldest son of my friend Rick O’Neil, the Mayor-elect of Highlands.
Matt, 29 years old, joined the Army about 8 years ago, shortly after marrying Jamie. Jamie enlisted too. She is a MP at Fort Bragg. Matt served in the 82nd Airborne Division. He retired as Squad Leader. Matt spent 27 months in combat. It took me a couple of months to get him to stop calling me “Mr. Gallagher.”
Like all the combat vets I’ve met before I started to get to know Matt, he doesn’t talk much about what he experienced in combat.
I’m reminded of the father of my best high school friends, a WWII vet. My friend’s Dad worked nights and slept during the day. One afternoon in the early 1970’s Mike and I were quietly walking past his Dad’s bedroom when suddenly his Dad started screaming. I was alarmed. My friend was embarrassed that I witnessed what was apparently a normal occurrence.
Matt is working hard to adjust to civilian life where some many of us act less than honorably as a matter of course and treat our promises cavalierly. I don’t know what kind of struggles he his experiencing inside, but I pray they don’t last for the rest of his life, like they did for my high school friend’s Dad.
Matt’s “brother,” Staff Sergeant (Ret) Josh Hall of Jonesborough Tennessee, made a video last week to support Rick’s candidacy for mayor. While talking about his experience of Matt’s family, Josh gives us insight into himself, Matt, Jamie and the other 1,000,000 kids who answered the call.
Today, and everyday, if you meet a Vet, thank him or her. If their wounds, physical or behavioral, make you uncomfortable, press through your discomfort and recognize that those wounds are a gift to you. If you have the opportunity to give a Vet a break—take it.