Thursday, November 12, 2009
Remember Our Veterans
As I was pondering what I could write for Freedom Friday this week, I read again some opinion articles printed in the Anchorage Daily News on Veterans Day, 11 November 2009. I was excited to see more than an entire page devoted to remembering our veterans. I was especially touched by the articles written by actual veterans and/or current military members. These articles enabled me to understand better a few more of the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military. One of our local writers, Tim Benintendi, a Vietnam veteran, explained that "when military personnel are sworn in, their constitutional rights are suspended and they submit to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Among other things, the UCMJ restricts one's freedom of movement, right to a civilian jury trial, freedom of speech and other constitutional guarantees…. Ironically, those charged with defending our Constitution are essentially removed from its protections." He explained that the military rules are in place to "instill and maintain discipline." Lt. Col. Rob Waldman, a former fighter pilot and veteran with 65 combat missions in Iraq and Serbia, wrote, "… there is no greater advocate for peace than a soldier. And while we may not agree 100 percent with the decisions our country makes, our commitment and our responsibility to our country should always take precedence over our personal opinions and feelings. "When we take an oath to `support and defend the Constitution of the United States,' we should honor it. It's about commitment, integrity, courage and sacrifice and I am a firm believer that it takes character and discipline to uphold these patriotic values." Leo Thorsness (Col., USAF, Ret.), a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, described his experience as a POW: "… we were shot down by a MiG, and became POWs for six years. "Years of torture, loneliness, malnourishment and bad medicine were to follow. We'd spend the days tapping messages to one another between prison walls - sometimes a poem or a prayer - and longing for family and country back home." Each of these three veterans made suggestions of ways to remember, honor, and reverence those who are in the ongoing battle to preserve our liberty. Lt. Col. Waldman asked several questions and then answered them. 1) "How can we pay tribute to our veterans and to those currently serving…? We do it by committing ourselves to service in our everyday lives and by creating an environment in our country that embraces the values and principles that our soldiers fight to protect." 2) "Are you worth fighting for? … The best way we can thank our veterans is to make them proud of us through our own personal commitment, courage and compassion. We need to be warriors for freedom and do the right thing by living with honor." Mr. Thorsness suggested that we develop the habit of thanking veterans. "As a veteran, it is surprising, humbling and yet pleasing when strangers say `thank you' even now, 36 years after my own service in Vietnam…. "When veterans hear `thank you,' it feels like our mission was accomplished. It helps remind me - and surely other veterans - that even the most painful missions were worthwhile challenges. Every `thank you' …is like the joy of a promise kept and a goal achieved…. All service members still need support and a `thank you' - before, during and after the mission is accomplished." Mr. Benintendi suggested that we visit our local veterans memorial "to reflect on these sacrifices" made by veterans. He also suggested that we seek out veterans who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam as well as those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to discuss their experiences. Veterans Day is a special day each year when we formally honor all those who have given service, sacrifice and loss to protect our freedoms. It is right and good that we have a special day to honor them; nevertheless, we should willingly show them our gratitude every day of the year. We must always remember that it is the members of the military - those willing to fight and make sacrifices - are the ones who are safeguarding our freedoms. We must never forget that the experiences of war include many horrors. I am positive that it is a very difficult thing to be in a place where people are trying to kill you or being in a position where it is kill or be killed. There are also horrors involved in being injured or in watching fellow soldiers being killed or injured. I assume that there are other horrors that I cannot even imagine. I am very sorry that we have war because I believe that peace would be much more enjoyable. We do not currently have the option to not have war because there are crazy people in the world who want to kill all Americans. There are many attempts to do this, not the least of which took place recently at Fort Hood. My condolences and prayers go out to all those affected by all the terrorist attacks, especially this most recent one. I send a huge "Thank you" to all those who stand between our enemies and our citizens. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!