Had Master Sgt. Robert L. White III left Camp Diamondback for another facility in Iraq just 20 minutes later, he said he likely would have been killed or severely wounded.
At a Veterans Day service at Macons historic Linwood Cemetery, the 40-year Army veteran described his experiences as a soldier to more than 50 people in attendance Monday morning.
White said he departed the camp that afternoon in a vehicle, heading toward another camp across the street. Twenty minutes later, enemy combatants launched a mortar attack on Camp Diamondback. One of the mortars struck the very spot where White got into his vehicle.
It aint nothing but God, White said, his voice choked with emotion. He brought us all back to our families.
Veterans Day, created originally as Armistice Day in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I, remembers the soldiers and sailors who made it back to their families as well as those who didnt.
During his remarks, White said its difficult for those who havent served in the military to understand fully the sacrifices for those who have.
Until you walk in their footsteps, you dont know what a soldier goes through, White said. You cant call in sick on a Monday. ... So many veterans have spent birthdays, holidays, Christmases overseas.
White enlisted in the Army after graduating from Macons Southwest High School, and he served in the armored division. During Vietnam, he was stationed in Germany but later served in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom.
It is with honor I stand here today, said White, whose father served in the Korean War and whose father-in-law served in the Pacific Theater in World War II and was a prisoner of the Japanese. Its an honor to see so many Americans free because of what these men and women sacrifice for this country.
White and other veterans Monday noted the favorable shift in attitude the general public has taken toward soldiers since the Vietnam War.
Its very uplifting the respect veterans get like (at Mondays service), said Willie Lightfoot, who served in the Army and was stationed with White in Germany during Vietnam. When I got into the service, it was totally different. People didnt have respect for veterans. You wanted to get out of that uniform because people would look at you funny. Im glad it is like it is now. Better late than never.
At the end of Mondays service, White and several other veterans placed an honorary wreath at the gravesite of Monroe Jackson Jr., who served in the Army during the Korean War and died last year.
Linwood Cemetery also is the final resting place for Marine Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis, Macons only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
Patricia Young of Macon, whose daughter and son-in-law are both veterans, said it was important for civilians to recognize the contributions of those who served.
Theyve devoted themselves and willingly made sacrifices, she said. The least we can do is to come here for a few minutes to honor them.
Macon City Councilman Lonnie Miley, a Gulf War veteran, said all veterans are brothers for life.
I love to get together with anybody who served, he said. Its always good to see all these veterans. We support each other and will be there for each other. Were a band of brothers for life.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.