"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers"

  • Published
  • By Col. James Patterson
  • 932nd Medical Group
William Shakespeare's play "Henry
V" has immortalized these famous
words: "We few, we happy few, we
band of brothers.

"For he who sheds his blood with me this day
shall be my brother......." 

Few words have ever expressed the bond
that we in the military share. Whether
in the past, present, or future, all those
who have and are willing to lay down
their lives for their fellow soldier are
inextricably attached to one another. 

On almost any day, when I see a
veteran, I feel compelled to stop and
talk with them. I am always
impressed with the immense amount
of gratitude they radiate as well as the
exhilaration I feel having heard their
stories and connecting with a moment
in history. 

Not long ago, I decided to visit
some of the veterans in several
nursing homes that I owned and
managed. I was especially interested
in doing this since my Dad is a veteran
of World War II. I thought the visits
would be nice, but I was not
prepared for what occurred. 

I guess I thought these veterans
were regularly remembered,
especially on Memorial Day, July 4th,
Veterans Day, etc., but unfortunately
that is not the case. These men and
women of World War II and Korea
who brought peace to the world and
then quietly came home and rebuilt
the nation, have virtually been
forgotten and unappreciated. What
they did is the platform upon which
this nation so proudly stands yet
fewer and fewer of our population
understand the sacrifices and
commitment these people made. 

I wore my uniform  when I visited
these veterans. I  had no idea how
much that symbol would mean to
these noble warriors. I visited
one man who hadn't spoken in
four months. 

I was told he probably wouldn't
acknowledge my visit. When I
walked into the room, he saw the
uniform and sat straight up in bed; his
eyes bright and attentive. I told him I
wanted to express my appreciation
for what he had done. I told him how
honored I was to be in the presence
of someone who had done so much
for the peace of this world and the
growth of this nation. I said I wanted
to give him a miniature flag as an
expression of my gratitude. He took
the flag and held it to his lips and
sobbed. He held my hand and said,
"Thank you, thank you, thank you." 

These were the first words he had
uttered in months. There was not a
dry eye in the room. 

In one nursing home, we had the
Honor Guard from the Air Force
Base present the colors before the
veterans. As the Guard entered the
room, these wonderful men, with
tears streaming down their cheeks,
placed their hands over their hearts
and pledged allegiance to the flag that
they loved. In two other homes, we
had been given a new flag from the
US Senator. We brought the veterans
outside to view the flying of the new

When I gave the command to
"Present Arms," these veterans who
were stooped with age, stood as tall
as they could and saluted. As the
National Anthem was sung,
tears flowed with grateful
appreciation. I proudly
cried with these soldiers of
the past. I was honored to
talk with men who landed
at Normandy, fought in
North Africa, Sicily,
Guadalcanal, the Battle of
the Bulge, and the Chosin
Reservoir. I visited with
men who survived the
attack at Pearl Harbor and
three years in a Japanese
prisoner of war camp. 

These quiet heroes cried and shared
their cherished memories with me.
Over and over, they and their families
told me how much my visit and my
simple expression of respect had
meant to these men of history. Never
have I felt so humble and yet so
proud and lifted up as I did in the
presence of these veterans. 

Today, the veterans of World War
II are dying at a rate of 1,000 a day.
Soon, they'll be gone. I implore you
to put on your uniform and go visit
any and all veterans you know. I
encourage everyone to waste not
another day, but sit by the side of
these honorable men and women. 

Hear their stories. 

Tell them you care. 

Learn from them. 

It will be more rewarding than anything you have

NOTE:  Col. Patterson is the 932nd Airlift Wing's Medical Group commander at Scott Air Force Base, an Air Force Reserve Command unit.