That old expression about an ill wind comes to mind this time of year as another anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches.
We’re still arguing about how much government intrusion a society that treasures its freedom will support, and if we’re fortunate, that won’t be resolved any time soon. Amid all the psychological, sociological and political fallout from the 2001 attacks, however, is a renewed appreciation for the people who volunteer for military service.
Before 9/11, it was all too easy for those with no direct link to the military to take for granted the jobs soldiers, sailors, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel do. The draft was but a fading memory, and thus only a relative handful of families waved goodbye to somebody special as they headed toward jobs that were both potentially dangerous and necessary.
American ambivalence to the military started as a sniffle after the Korean War — known euphemistically in the ’50s as a police action — but became pneumonia during the Vietnam War. After 9/11, however, the malady disappeared. Military personnel were called heroes across all platforms of media and in everyday conversation.
The drums were rolling.
Twelve years later, the nation and its political leaders are still sifting through the destruction wrought by the 9/11 attacks, but whatever feelings exist about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, affection for the troops remains strong. That’s the good that blew in with that ill wind of Sept. 11, 2001.
The appreciation shown this generation of warriors has spread to their ’60s predecessors.
Thirty-eight years after the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, Americans had at long last learned to separate feelings about a war from feelings about the warriors.
That was evident last winter during the site dedication for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Texas Capitol. It is evident in the plethora of honors — large and small — being showered on vets of all wars.
An example of that is the two-day event scheduled next week to benefit soldiers wounded in combat. A dinner and auction is scheduled for Tuesday and is to be followed by a benefit golf tournament the next day at River Place.
The auction proceeds will benefit Mustang Mentors, a program of the Mustang Heritage Foundation. Proceeds from the golf tournament scheduled Wednesday go to supporting the activities of the Austin chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart medal dates back to the days of the Continental Army to honor those wounded in action.
The Mustang Mentors program aims to help make the difficult adjustment back to civilian life easier by training wild horses. John Collins, one of the coordinators of the event, explained that working with horses has therapeutic value for returning soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The horse therapy is a nontraditional approach to reaching soldiers with PTSD symptoms, but it appears to be effective.
Response to the events has been good, considering that there has been relatively little media coverage, Collins said, but he added that organizers were hoping to attract 30 teams for the Wednesday golf tournament, but so far only half that number have signed up.
Three-member teams will be assigned one Purple Heart recipient to compete with them.
About a third of the participants who have signed up thus far are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It will be a grand opportunity for generations of veterans to get to know one another.
One doesn’t usually associate golf or horses with the events of Sept. 11, 2001. But this time, it seems to be a pretty good fit.
See you there.
If you go …
Tuesday: 5:15 p.m. registration, dinner and auction at River Place Country Club, 4207 River Place Blvd.
Wednesday: 11 a.m. lunch and opening ceremonies for golf tournament.
For more information, contact John Collins at 512-627-6215
To learn more about the horse program, go to
More information on Military Order of the Purple Heart at purpleheartaustin.org