Every year on November 11, we as a country celebrate Veterans Day, which is a day to honor and show respect for everyone who ever wore a uniform in service to the United States.
Just as every person has different experiences, we respect the contributions and sacrifices that every service member made while in service to our country.
We are preparing for our annual Veterans Day programs in our small New England town and it is always a busy, but enjoyable, time of the year for our local veterans. Our members from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion and our local Veterans Council will be visiting all of the local schools as they put on programs and ceremonies that honor all of our services and servicemembers.
The schools and the children here always put a lot of time and effort into the programs; and it shows. For the veterans, it is a time to educate: There is still some confusion among the citizens as to the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. But that is part of the reason for doing this.
And during the question and answer section, which is always a part of the program, the students in town will get to hear about all of the different experiences of our veteran citizens. We have veterans from World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Cold War and the modern Global War on Terror.
Later, we make the trek over to our local nursing home where we’ll ensure that the veterans who are staying there, and there are more and more, aren’t forgotten on that day. And on the 11th, we’ll be gathering, with members of our Board of Selectmen and other town officials, at two monuments in the middle of town to rededicate them.
There are several corners and intersections in town that were dedicated to the men that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Due to the recent construction of a state highway that passed through the town and the upgrade of the bridge and roundabout that connects it, the state had to move two of them, which commemorated two World War II heroes, until construction was completed. Now that construction is over, the monuments have been moved back to their former locations. And we will take part, with our town officials, in rededicating them and rehonoring these two World War II heroes that died, far too young, in battlefields that many at home would be hard-pressed to find on a map.
In looking at the bios of the men commemorated on the monuments, one has to wonder what their lives were like when they were called to serve. Our town and world were very different places than what they are today. WWII was a tremendously large conflict that enveloped our nation, and one in which millions were called to serve. One of my two townsmen was killed in action in Europe and the other was killed in the Cebu Islands. We are currently trying to contact any next of kin to see if they’d like to take part in the rededication ceremonies.
But this also harkens back to our own service. Each member of our Veterans Council, from our Korean to Vietnam War vets, has had different experiences. Different from the young man who was drafted from our town, served as an infantryman, fought across France and Belgium and took part in the Battle of the Bulge. Different from another World War II veteran, who was a rear gunner on a dive bomber, and fought the Japanese on Iwo Jima.
Every year our numbers of Veterans of these wars shrink and many of those veterans’ stories are lost forever. We’ve made it a mission to video-record each one of those men’s stories because each one of them is important.
However, despite the vast variety in eras, experiences, and ages, one thing remains remarkably the same: Our servicemembers didn’t just serve our country. To a man, they will all say that they also served each other. That includes serving their fellow soldiers and also, in a very tangible way, each and every citizen of the United States of America.
We all remember when we answered the call for our country. Some were drafted, others joined, but all served. Now, as we grow older, some of us scarcely resemble the young men and women that raised their hands to support and defend the Constitution. But in our minds, that person is still alive and well.
While we appreciate all the kind words and actions that the citizens bestow upon every veteran on November 11, it is a kind of personal day for each of us. For each and every veteran knows the sacrifices that we’ve each made to protect our way of life: Veterans Day is a day to celebrate each other.
It is also a good day to remember what President Ronald Reagan said:
“If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay the price.”
A Salute to all Veterans, DOL