Hardships vets endured never to be forgotten

Mindy Carls
Ty Simmons delivers a message on Memorial Day in Orion.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army in December 1968, Ty Simmons rose to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 before retiring in 2004. 

Simmons, now a resident of Aurora, provided the message at the Memorial Day service on Monday, May 25, in Orion. 

He piloted Huey helicopters in 1970 and 1971 in Vietnam. Based in Pleiku, he flew combat assault, re-supply and attack support missions.

Afterwards, he was a medical evacuation pilot at Fort Hood, Texas.  

In 1974, Simmons left the Army to serve in the National Guard. He learned to fly Chinook heavy lift helicopters. 

He returned to active duty in 2003, spending 18 months as operations officer of an aviation company in Iraq.

During 36 years of military service, he received the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars and four Air Medals. 

Veterans gathered for the service rose to applaud Simmons as he stepped to the podium.

Americans serving in the military are willing to defend freedom and representative government, and to advance democratic ideas around the world, Simmons said. They have inspired people in other nations. 

The military has brought great honor to the United States, often while those in uniform endured hardships and even atrocities, he said.

“We must never forget the pain and suffering of our men and women who served with distinction,” Simmons said. Nearly one million have died in military service. 

The Vietnam War ended 34 years ago, but for many who were there it still rages on in some measure, physically or mentally, he said.  

Vietnam veterans were less than welcomed when they returned home, Simmons noted.

“Many were scorned by the very citizens they felt they were protecting,” he noted. 

Despite the rejection, Vietnam veterans became productive citizens and made tremendous contributions to society, Simmons noted. 

“The government must uphold the military, because without it life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are empty words,” he said. 

Memorial Day is a time for Americans “to rededicate themselves to the duty of memory,” Simmons said. “Behind each name is a hero’s story. Each action was beyond the call of duty.

We must pass on stories of courage and character to the next generation and celebrate American heroes and values without apology.”

Because of their sacrifice and service, veterans deserve affection and respect, Simmons said.

Never again should Americans fail to honor veterans as they did in the Vietnam era. 

“Wars are the result of the politics of nations, and not the service of soldiers,” he said. “Many soldiers would rather return home, but they must follow lawful orders. Soldiers are driven by a willingness to sacrifice their lives so others may live in freedom. 

“Memorial Day is a time to honor all veterans, and a day to be proud we are a nation made great by all our veterans,” Simmons said.