Opinion

They serve and keep us free | As I See It

Eugene Weigant piloted a B-24 on 34 missions over Germany during World War II and was shot down once, crash landing in a field. The French Resistance got Capt. Weigant and his crew back to England, where they occupied another B-24 to finish their job. Upon returning home to the U.S., his father would no longer speak to him when it was discovered that he had bombed his own family in Germany. - Courtesy photo
Eugene Weigant piloted a B-24 on 34 missions over Germany during World War II and was shot down once, crash landing in a field. The French Resistance got Capt. Weigant and his crew back to England, where they occupied another B-24 to finish their job. Upon returning home to the U.S., his father would no longer speak to him when it was discovered that he had bombed his own family in Germany.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

My son, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, sports a license frame on his car that reads, "Enjoying your freedom? You're Welcome."

Even though it is a little strong, he is right.

As a country we forgot it altogether during and after Vietnam. When I came back, we were instructed not to wear our uniforms for fear that we would come back to the country we fought for and lose our lives. I wore my uniform and dared trouble.

Then Desert Storm taught us that our parents and grandparents were wrong, and we could appreciate veterans. Then came Iraq and we forgot wrong and acquired a genuine love for our men and women in uniform.

Now we see the once bareheaded vets of Vietnam with their gray heads proudly covered by ball caps, donning unit insignias from our nation's military of yesterday, standing around the shopping malls, exchanging war stories until we hear, "Come on, honey, I've got to start dinner."

Our young people, our sons and daughters, have volunteered to serve their country in record numbers until everywhere we turn, we see young people who are clean cut in mind and appearance with determination in their step and positive attitudes on their agendas for the future.

These are today's veterans, the people who have returned from fighting and support in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are the people who have put their lives aside for years of sacrifice, so that when we visit the malls it won't have to occur to us that other people in other countries find explosives hidden in their shopping carts.

My oldest son, a major in the Marine Corps, called one day from Iraq to tell me about his blue ribbon day. "Was able to return to base and take off my gear after two weeks of wear. Smelled kind of bad, Dad," he said.

What is a veteran? And why should we remember them one day a year?

They are those who have received training above and far beyond what mom and dad could have given. They learn how to respect and love our country. They learn how to fight for our right and privilege to be free. They are taught how to be selfless and offer their very personal existence to the preservation of our nation, and more personally, their very life in exchange for your life and my life.

They have given so much of themselves – even their lives – at such a young age, so I can reach 68 and live in the freedom that I experience.

One day is not enough to remember these veterans, but one day is what should be a launching pad for all year, to be thankful for our veterans. They didn't spend just one day serving for our freedom, but we do have one day on Nov. 11 to be really, really thankful to "our veterans," then really conscious of their many days gift all year long.

Happy Veterans Day, vets. It's your day for us to remember you. We are so glad that we have you.

Don Dinsmore is a regular contributor to the Reporter.

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