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Veterans share common bonds
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Today on Veterans Day, veterans both young and old will pause to reflect on their service and those who fought before them.

They have a lot in common, yet much changed between 1953 when David Coker served in the Korean War and 2007 when Maj. Kevin Jarrard was deployed in Iraq.

“Many aspects of military service are timeless,” said Jarrard, now commandant of cadets at Riverside Military Academy. “There’s as much in common as there is in contrast. The same shared adversity the ancients endured, our soldiers today endure.”

One thing veterans say is irreplaceable is the bonds they form with their fellow soldiers.

Though it has been more than 50 years since Coker was stationed in Korea, he says he has a special friendship with one of the men he fought with.

“I have one buddy in Alabama that I was in service with,” Coker said. “It’s just strange. You get your buddy and you stick with him.”

Jarrard, who has been deployed many times to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, said he thinks often of the friends he served with overseas. The camaraderie is important for soldiers who are so far from home, especially around the holidays.

“We were actively engaged in a combat mission on Christmas morning,” Jarrard said. “I don’t think I’ll ever have a Christmas morning I don’t think about that raid.”

Like the rest of the world, military service has been changed significantly by technology.

Soldiers overseas used to wait weeks to receive letters from home. Now cellular technology and the Internet have made daily communication possible.

Jarrard said he doesn’t necessarily think that is a good thing.

“That presents really a host of challenges,” he said. “Before you had some decompression between those types of events and communication with home. ... That’s increased in some ways the stress levels of families at home and soldiers who are deployed.”

Coker said the only time he got to talk to his wife on the telephone was after he left Korea and was able to call from Japan. He said he had to wait for an hour before the long distance call would go through.

“Time has really changed,” Coker said.

Different conflicts also lead to different attitudes from Americans at home. Coker said he is glad to see that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming back to gratitude and warm receptions.

“Nobody paid any attention to us,” Coker said. “We just came home and went back to work.”

Jarrard on the other hand, recalls fondly the feeling of being back on American soil.

“There’s no substitute for holding your wife and children in your arms,” Jarrard said. “I have very vivid, happy memories of each reunion after each departure and return.”

Jim Lancaster, a member of the board of trustees and a former commander of American Legion Post 7, said the nature of war has changed with each American conflict, from the more choreographed battles of World War II and the Korean War to the guerilla attacks in the Vietnam War and roadside bombs in the Middle East.

“Veterans in all wars have gone wherever Uncle Sam has asked them to go and done whatever he’s asked them to do,” Lancaster said. “I think the difference in the different conflicts has been the change of technology.”