Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. Federal offices will be closed. The malls will be full and it’s a great time to buy a new car with heavy rebates and low interest.
At a time when troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, this year the thanks we owe to our veterans is more apparent just because it’s on the front burner of our national consciousness.
I urge you to, in some way, thank a veteran for his or her service.
Here’s my thanks to one veteran.
He graduated from high school in 1942 with a state basketball championship under his belt and an athletic scholarship in the bag. But for a healthy young, single man, 1942 wasn’t a good time to be planning on spending much time in college.
Uncle Sam called and it wasn’t too long before the basketball court, the local college and the easy small town life of a high school student was far behind. It was replaced with a sailor’s uniform and heading for the Japanese fleet in the South Pacific at the height of World War II.
The cheer of the crowds in the local gym were replaced with the sounds of warplanes leaving and landing on the decks of the big ships and heavy artillery taking their measure of the islands throughout the South Pacific.
The big bombs dropped on Japan brought him back to the States and back to the small Vermont town that was home. He married, had a couple of kids and started a new life–not much money but with strong family ties and a lot of hope for the future as they worked to build a life in the civilian world.
Unfortunately, those Navy skills were still valuable. And, as the Korean War took off, Uncle Sam’s draft board again came calling. So, off he went to a different ship, a different ocean and a different war with the wife and kids left behind.
America’s wars took up seven years of his life and undoubtedly changed the lives of those around him in unexpected ways. He seldom talked about the war experiences until late in life. But he seldom complained and took pride in the success of the war effort and his part in preserving freedom for Americans.
And the friendships and bonds of military personnel don’t break easily. Some 60 years later, the men who served on the USS Banner in WWII still get together once a year to swap pictures and memories. While the size of the group is dwindling, the memories are still strong and vivid and the pride in America is apparent in the faces and voices of each aging veteran.
So, this is my way of thanking Bill Smith, one veteran who risked his life and gave seven years in service to his country.