Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
If you haven’t had the chance to personally thank a veteran this week for your freedom — find one after church and do it.
The thought of walking up to a war veteran, shaking their hand and thanking them for their service either doesn’t occur to most of us, or if we think of it, we’re too self-conscious to do anything about it.
The topic came up in conversation with my wife one day recently. She said she had never thought about doing that (thanking a veteran) until she talked with a reporter I worked with a few years back. He had impressed on her how important it was to a veteran that they hear that expression — especially if it came from someone they didn’t even know.
When you think about it, they gave up a sizeable piece of their life and sometimes their physical and mental well-being for lots of folks they had never met. A willing, proud and honorable veteran is a role model for us that, in my eyes, can only be topped by the example set by Christ. It’s unselfishness offered up for a selfish people.
My wife and I compared notes and agreed that neither of us had a veteran in our close immediate families and that probably made it a lot harder for us to understand the honor and tradition within some military families.
I’ve known a lot of vets through my association with Rotary over the years and became good friends with one Rotarian in Colorado who served in the German army in World War II. Granted, thanking him for his service was a little different, but the whole club let him know we honored him on Veterans Day as well.
I’ve interviewed quite a few vets and active duty military over the years. Sometimes for Veterans Day stories, sometimes just personal profiles. I talked to veterans during Desert Storm for stories on that conflict and I interviewed veterans after Sept. 11, 2001. I’ve interviewed military people serving in the Iraq War more recently. Always the two things that come out most clearly when you talk to them, especially if they’re a combat veteran, is their strong love of their country and its freedoms and their deep comradeship with the people they served with.
I think very few of us can truly appreciate fully the freedoms we enjoy and the good life we have in this country. Many veterans learned how sweet those things are first hand and they don’t take them for granted.
Myself, my father, nor his father ever wore a military uniform. At times I felt a little ashamed of that fact but I also remember how relieved I was that the draft and the Vietnam War came to an end a few years before I became eligible. It was circumstance that kept all three of us from serving, I guess.
I’ve been lucky though to have had the chance to interact pretty intimately with some remarkable veterans. They’ve helped me to better understand something I didn’t experience myself. If I’ve told their stories well, maybe I’ve even helped someone else to understand the price they paid.
Traditional Veterans Day has passed but many will be observing the holiday Monday. So I would ask you to do a couple of things. First of all, read two books before next Veterans Day — “Flags of My Fathers” by James Bradley and “Faith of My Fathers” by John McCain. These two books will change the way you look at your personal freedoms and show you how different our world could be without people willing to take a stand for those freedoms.
Secondly, thank a veteran, even if you have to call one of people you’ve seen profiled in this paper every day for the last few months. They’ll appreciate it like you wouldn’t believe and you’ll feel great.