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Mendon Musings

I am writing this column a week before you are reading it, and thinking about Veterans Day.

I am not a veteran, but my grandfather (World War I), father (World War II) and uncle (Korea) were. Each had their own reasons for joining and each had their own experiences.

For my father, it was learning that his cousin Eddie, a Marine, had been killed on some island in the Pacific. He went out that day and enlisted in the Navy so that he, too, could fight. My dad served in most of the key sea battles as we headed towards Japan, and went on to serve in the Far East after the war, ferrying refugees from mainland China to Taiwan.

Most of the vets from his war are gone now and all will be gone soon as the years pass. I grew up in the Vietnam era and most of the vets from that war are now in their mid-60s and older.

Today, our younger veterans are people who were not drafted, but volunteered to serve. While all veterans deserve our thanks, admiration and support, I have to believe that the volunteers deserve it even more because they made a conscious choice to serve.

If there was any lesson to learn from the Vietnam war – recently chronicled on PBS – it was that you can disagree with a conflict, but you should respect those who served in it. That was something that did not always happen during the Vietnam era, when returning servicemen and women were often jeered at.

So, when you see someone in a military uniform, please thank them for their service. You may not think going to some sand pit of a country has anything to do with us back here in the States, but they are the ones in harm's way.

Take the time to look at the veterans' monuments in town. Read the names on them. Try to picture what is was like for them to be away from home and their loved ones, under fire, and trying to stay alive.

Go and read a copy of the poem, In Flanders Fields, written on an Ypres, Belgium battlefront in May, 1915, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian Medical Corps. The second stanza reads:

We are the dead: Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved: and now we lie

In Flanders fields!

They lived, they felt the dawn, they saw the sunset, they loved people and they were loved back. Now they are gone.

We should honor our veterans – not just on one day a year – for what they sacrificed for us.


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