Ed Autry, who served 10 years in the Air Force and 10 years in the National Guard and reserve during the Cold War, knows what it’s like not to fit into such veterans’ organizations as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“I had visited (these) organizations and didn’t feel like I fit in there as a Cold War veteran,” says Autry, who, for the past 18 years, has served as an audio-visual technician at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.
It wasn’t that Autry had any enmity toward these two military organizations or any other veterans’ groups. He didn’t. They just did not address his needs as a Cold War veteran.
His search for such a military group led him to the American Cold War Veterans, whose mission is “to bring respect, recognition and awareness to veterans of the Cold War no matter what branch of service, whether active duty, reserve or National Guard.”
Says Autry: “...And it was not until I (discovered) this organization that I finally found where I am suppose to be ... and (it was) the correct veterans’ organization that understood my situation.”
Since affiliating with the ACWV – a spin off of the Cold War Veterans Association – Autry would like to establish an Independence chapter, as there are none in the metro area.
But for this to happen, he says, “We have to get the word out that the organization (exists) because there are Cold War veterans who don’t realize it is available.”
Autry, 57, hopes Cold War veterans reading this story will join the American Cold War Veterans by going to the ACWV web site – www.americancoldwarvets.org – and click on Membership/Join Us.
“If there is enough (local) interest,” he states, (ACWV) might set up a new chapter here.”
But this isn’t likely to happen, he says, unless Cold War veterans go to the ACWV web site and join the organization, which Autry believes is the only military group that fully understands and addresses issues of Cold War veterans.
New members, he says, will be associated with an organization “committed to honoring sacrifices made by millions of American men and women during the Cold War, especially those who paid the ultimate price of life or liberty.”
Autry says many Americans believe the Cold War – September 1945 - December 1991– was won without firing a shot.
“That’s a lie intentionally and unintentionally perpetrated on the American public.”
During the Cold War, which refers to the post-World War II rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union, combat deaths were classified as “accidents” because of political or security reasons.
Using the gunning down of a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the Soviet coast as an example, Autry notes Americans would read in their newspapers the next day the aircraft crashed on a routine training mission due to inclement weather.
Page 2 of 2 - “Well, they had to print that because it was a classified mission,” he explains. “But (incidents) are as numerous as those depicted on our web site (with) photographs, names, dates and places of those who were killed during the Cold War era. And yet, Cold War veterans aren’t respected because people don’t know (the truth).”
Like the men and women who stood ready to fight for a good cause in the Cold War, so is the American Cold War Veterans. This organization has been fighting for years to get Congress to approve the Cold War Victory Medal, which has already been designed. But to no avail.
“We have a lobbyist who time after time has gone before Congress and tried to get it approved. But the Pentagon keeps on disapproving,” he says, adding: “They won’t include it in a bill.”
Autry explains: “(The bill) gets sponsored by a couple of people and gets included in a bill, and then the Pentagon fights it – and we don’t know why.”
There is one exception, however. The Louisiana National Guard has such a medal, and its members have been authorized to wear it on their uniform, Autry says, noting that as far as the government is concerned, the medal is commemorative – not actual.
“From our perspective, we want to say to them: ‘What do you mean it is commemorative. People died. People were shot down and killed. And you don’t want to give recognition to those people who served in that time period. That’s ridiculous.’”
Cold War heroes haven’t been forgotten, thanks to the National Day of Remembrance. Every May 1, the American Cold War Veterans and cooperating organizations conduct ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at the USS Thresher/USS Scorpion memorial at Seal Beach, Calif.
As for Ed Autry, he entered the Cold War as a trainee in February 1977 and left active duty in 1987 as a technical sergeant. Among his duties were that of a marksmanship instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as well as a broadcaster with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, including assignments in Turkey and Korea.
For more information about the American Cold War Veterans, call Autry at 816-268-8201. He awaits your call.
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.