Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day 2016

A big "Thank You" to our veterans!

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I on "the eleventh day of the eleventh hour of the eleventh month" of 1918. Today, this holiday honors the men and women who have defended the United States through service in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

On this day I think of the sacrifices made by many friends who served in Vietnam and of all those who have served in the defense of the United States. In particular I think of family and the service of a great uncle in World War I and two uncles in World War II. 

My Great Uncle George, standing on the left with his fire brigade in Jacksonville, Florida, served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in World War I, the Great War. To him, this day was Armistice Day. I was ten when he died and didn't know him, but much of what he was as a veteran is present in my house. His portrait hangs just off our foyer. The pocket Bible he carried is in a keepsake cabinet nearby along with his military issue binoculars and a silver-plated swagger stick - a gift from his unit - made from machine gun shells casings and the Seal of the U.S. Army. The last item is one he never saw, but it summarized everything he did as a soldier. That item is the flag that covered his coffin. To my knowledge, it's still in the original triangle fold made the day he was buried sixty years ago.

The other family veterans from the world war era I knew very well.  Uncle Hollis, better known as "Red," and Uncle Charles, both served in the Pacific during World War II. In 1943-44, Red was assigned to Barber's Point Naval Air Station in Hawaii while his brother-in-law, Charles, served at Pearl Harbor. The facilities were a mere five miles apart but almost one year passed before they knew they were neighbors. On hearing the news, they resolved to meet for a photograph at the first opportunity. Here's that photo, taken at Waikiki with Red (l) and Charles (r) together at last. 

Both returned safely to their Potomac Valley hometowns in western Maryland but a declining economy in the region forced them to relocate to better job opportunities. Red moved his family to Ohio where he had a very successful career with Goodyear. Charles took his family to the booming oil industry in Houston, Texas, and work prospered in real estate management. Both are gone now, along with their wives, Edith and Dorothy.  All  four of them were fine examples of the Greatest Generation.

I never experienced military service and will never know how it shapes a person inside and out but I do know that every veteran has paid a very personal price that enables us to enjoy life in this bountiful nation. On November 11 - Armistice Day or Veterans Day - we should take some time to remember those who have served their country and its people. I offer up to all of them my sincerest admiration and thanks on this day and every day.

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