An old generation of warriors, some of them spurned, fades into the veterans halls, into the din of televised hockey games, Monday night pool tournaments and $10 socials.
They have given way to a new generation of soldiers going to battle in the Persian Gulf. But support for their comrades in arms is solid among these soldiers of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.On Monday, two nights before the allied forces attacked Iraq in Operation Desert Storm to force it out of Kuwait, some of the old warriors gathered for a beer or a game of pool at the William D. Doyle Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2831.
Their thoughts, masked by the camaraderie of the evening, were in the Middle East.
"John T. Sullivan, 7520453, United States Navy," declared one man, captain of one of the teams in the pool tournament.
"I think people are concerned, as I am," said Sullivan, a 63-year-old World War II veteran. "I just got down from a ladder putting flags and yellow ribbons all over the front of the house, as did the neighbors."
Sullivan's sentiments stirred memories of another time two decades ago when Vietnam veterans came home to the scorn of much of the nation. There were no yellow ribbons for them.
One of them, Tom Manning, a 40-year-old father of four, said he had just been on the phone with the Navy, trying to re-enlist.
"I believe that what we're doing is the right thing," he said. "Vietnam was just a bad experience. This is completely different. This guy (Saddam Hussein) took over a country. You know who your enemy is here."
Richard Carr, 42, another Vietnam veteran, said after he returned home in 1970 he joined peace marches to stop the war. "We didn't feel like we had a good cause," he said. "I think this is a good cause."
But Bob Reynolds, a 59-year-old Korean War veteran, said the Persian Gulf crisis could have been handled differently.
"I don't think we should have been forced into war over this," he said. "I think diplomatically we failed tremendously. I think we backed ourselves into a corner."
Anthony Petrangelo, the 60-year-old commander of the VFW post and a Korean War veteran, said talk turns to the crisis every day.
"At every meeting we pray for no casualties and peace throughout the world," he said. "No one here likes to see a war because no one wants to see bloodshed. We all know what it is. We've been through it."