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What It Means To Be a Veteran

Read on the see what it means to serve this great country in the US military.

So, What Does ""Being a Veteran” mean to me?

When I was in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, selfless service was an ethics my leaders continually emphasized. When it was my turn to lead, I, too, emphasized selfless service. I served for six and 1/2 years as a commissioned officer, and was proud to do so. Being a veteran has left me with a sense of having invested in my country where I was born and raised. It means extreme sacrifice by myself and my family. It means that families sacrifice as much if not more along this journey and many times are shunned in the communities for which we live and work. It means families never get the recognition for their support and many times don’t receive the same assistance that the veteran receives. It means that I still to this day get major goose bumps on opening day at sports games when the military fly-over by takes place and the national anthem is sung. It means I take it seriously when I fly the American flag outside of my home on the 4th of July and Memorial Day. It means even though my body is riddled with multiple problems, aches, and pains, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Why, because I deeply love this country of ours and I am damn proud of it.

Our past, present, and future military members and all the sacrifices that have been made by them and their families share in this great country. The freedoms for which all of us who are privileged enough to have and for which so many have made the ultimate sacrifice will live on in their honor. 

 

     It means Honor, Sacrifice,
                 Pride, Character. 

As I further reflect on what being a Veteran means to me, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and pride. I am grateful for the men and women that came before me, those that came after, and those that are still serving today. This gratitude extends not only to fellow Veterans, but also to the friends and family who sacrificed, endured, and patiently waited while their loved ones served. I am also proud of the fact that I am one of so many that answered our country’s call and put on the uniform of the greatest military on earth. I was taught pride in my country and our nation’s flag. Being a Veteran is an investment into personal character. It helped to develop who I am and what I wanted to strive for in the military and civilian life. Being a Veteran taught me the value of service. There is no better title than that of “Veteran.” It means the world to me and has helped me to share my soldier ethics in the civilian workforce and society at-large. Being a Veteran is the true embodiment of sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of time with one’s family, missed birthdays with family, spending holidays in remote and dangerous locations, suffering the mental and physical pains that come with that sacrifice, but still being willing to do it all over again. It is an honor to serve. Veterans serve in honor of our country, those who served with us and before us, those who didn’t come home, and those haunted by the memories of fierce battle. The word “Veteran” is the past tense of having served in the United States of America. The title comes only after a proactive commitment to enduring courage. Before one becomes a Veteran, one must first have to step up to the plate, knowing one may fight and die in the service of this great country.

That’s what it means to be a Veteran!

H. James Hulton III USAF Veteran Officer, Vietnam War Era

 

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Navy Captain "Nick" Charles, WW II Vet Hero, Passes at 101

by Jim Hulton, USAF Capt. (Ret.)

Nelson R. “Nick” Charles, who retired with the rank of Captain in the United States Navy, died on August 12, 2020 at the age of 101. Charles served in the Navy with a long career that began not long before the American entry into World War II. He was enrolled in flight school when the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in 1941, and spent most of the war flying combat missions in the South Pacific Theatre. Among his many decorations, Charles received the Silver Star, the Navy’s third highest personal award, for valor during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where he helped to sink a Japanese cruiser. He flew the TBF Avenger, a torpedo-bomber, with multi-caliber machine guns that became known as the “world’s deadliest aircraft” during the war. Prior to the Avenger, Japan had air superiority in early stages of the war. The Avenger took that away.

Charles continued to serve during the Korean War as commanding officer of a carrier-based squadron known as “Hunter-Killers AF,” (initial stages of anti-submarine warfare), later as a test pilot at Johnsville Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, PA, as squadron and Air Group Commander aboard the USS Wright based in Norfolk, VA, and finally as Commanding Officer of the Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Horsham, PA.

“He never thought that he would live long after four years in the South Pacific and in two wars,” his daughter Nancy Charles-Columbia said. “So, every day was a gift to him.” While he was often out at sea for months during his career, Charles made the most of his time with his family when he was home. “He certainly did things the way he wanted to, that’s for sure,” said Jim Charles, Nelson’s son. “He always wanted to contribute. And he was a pretty dynamic individual. At home, he was a good dad, really put out the effort to take care of the family and the kids. He barbecued on the beach with us, swam, and hung around with us day and evening. When I was 12 and legal to hunt with a parent in Virginia, he took me deer hunting. Later, while at Willow Grove and legal at 16, we would go to Perry County to hunt deer with cousins or hunt birds around Horsham.” Jim added his dad was a Boy Scout leader and helped him when he was an Eagle Scout. “He always got heavily involved in everything he did, work related or organizations. He was president of this and district governor of that. The same when they moved into Brittany Pointe. He ran the golf club and created the Memorial Veterans Wall. He was a fantastic dad and a role model all my life. I always strived to make him proud like I was proud of him.” Nancy said that, like many of his generation, World War II would forever change the course of her father’s life - not only in his career with the Navy, but with his outlook. “He was not a tough person,” she said, “as men appear to be after many years in the military. As a disciplinary father, he gave me and my brother a talking to instead of spanking us.”

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As a young boy, Nancy further explained, he was raised by his paternal grandparents after his mother died of the Spanish flu in the Pandemic of 1918-1920. He touched lives right and left. He was always available to people who had life’s problems, to give them a leg up on life. His attitude was, ‘How can I help you?” Nancy said that even towards the end of his life, her dad was an active leader and organizer, helping to arrange a Veteran’s Memorial at Brittany Pointe Estates, the retirement community where he and his wife spent their last 18 years together. “He wanted to make sure that Veterans were not forgotten to honor people who served” she said. He was very quiet and unassuming, He had great leadership and organizational skills. He knew how to get things done. He was kind in the way he spoke to people.” The Veterans Memorial Wall- CAPT Charles created at Brittany Pointe Estates in Lansdale, PA Captain Gordon Bell, USCG-Ret. MOAA Willow Grove board member and knew “Nick” for over 15 years, indicated that Nick was a soft-spoken officer, subtle, but firm and determined in conversation to get his point across, get the job done. This was always reflected in people who talked about him. 

Nick was very proud of the Willow Grove MOAA chapter, to see it flourish, and complimented Gordon to “keep up the good work with the newsletter “Stack Arms.” Gordon further noted that “Nick’s best accomplishment in retirement was bringing together his Veteran friends for the Veterans Memorial Wall at Brittany Pointe Estates.” Upon his own full retirement, Charles remained active in his local community. He became Horsham Township Manager for four years, worked as Vice President of Marketing for Martin Associates in King of Prussia, an environmental engineering firm, was founding member of the Horsham Rotary International Club, subsequent president and its District Governor of SEPA, became a member of the Military Officers Association of America (became its 1st Chapter President in Willow Grove in 1976) and Navy League, and served as president of the board of governors for the Old York Road Country Club. In addition to Jim and Nancy, Nelson Charles is survived by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Cynthia, died in 2017.They were happily married for 72 years. A daughter, Cynthia Anne, died in 1968. 

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