Strength & Courage...Then & Now: Former Tank Commander Inspires local veterans to face their fears
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
By: DAV Flight Team
McConnon was drafted into the United States Army in 1951. Living, eating, drinking and even using the facilities with five other individuals in a tank the size of an SUV, and then sticking your head out the turret, literally sticking your neck on the line was considered a routine day’s work for McConnon. “It was simply following orders, putting a check in the box and moving onto the next item. There wasn’t much time to think about anything else but completing the list of items that was assigned to us,” stated McConnon.
McConnon served at the Meridian – between North and South Korea - in 1951 and still proudly wears his Korean Veteran cap to all occasions. “ I wear the hat for more than just to show where I fought. I wear it to honor all those who we lost and to hopefully spark a conversation with some folks who need assistance or know someone who needs help. Icebreakers help me determine what is really going on with these folks, especially younger military members and veterans. You get to chatting with someone only to find out they are going through the same ordeal that did. It is always nice to know you aren’t alone, and you have someone to walk with you as you face these difficult times. It is often a challenge with the younger folks as they always want to think they can shake it off, but you can’t just shake off disabilities like PTSD. You need to face them head on. You need help. That is what the DAV is here for,” said McConnon.
In the battlefield one must adopt a “kill or be killed” attitude which makes adjusting to civilian life after service the most difficult time for many. Having no guidance from anyone, McConnon chose to keep to himself and not to bother anyone with what he was going through. “It wasn’t until I started talking to some guys that I even realized I had PTSD. I knew adjusting back to civilian life was hard, but I had no idea that the adjustment would follow me around for years,” remembers McConnon. “Back then I was more afraid to face myself than I was of sticking my head out the tank’s turret… and that is no way to live life.”
McConnon realized he wasn’t alone when members of DAV approached him at his local restaurant to ask about his time in the service. Within minutes McConnon knew that he wasn’t alone, that there was help and that he wanted to spend the rest of his days helping others with this realization as well. “When chatting with these veterans and family members, we are often telling them ways DAV can help. We are educating them, but we are also learning. We learn from these vets and their families the best way to reach them and to offer assistance.”
Every veteran has a story and every story is different, their stories portray their strength and courage…both then and now.
Disabled American Veterans, representing more than 1.3 million disabled veterans, is a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. It is dedicated to one, single purpose: Fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served.
See the DAV Flight Team alongside B-25 Bomber “Panchito”
For more information about Disabled American Veterans go to www.dav.org or follow the DAV Flight Team at www.facebook.com/
To learn more about the DAV Flight Team or to schedule an interview, contact, Kerry Ward 415-580-2704. For downloadable photos of the B-25 Mitchell Bomber, go to www.davflightteam.com (http://www.davflightteam.blogspot.com/