Editor’s Note: With Veterans Day today, we want to highlight this post from Aug. 28, 2016. We are grateful for the men and women who have served and sacrificed to protect our country, freedom and liberty.
I come from a family of veterans. Only a couple served during war time, but they all took the oath and had the possibility of giving their lives. My grandfathers (Combs and Sartor) served in the Army during WWII. My dad, Bud, served in the Army during the Cold War. He has movies of the Berlin Wall and Check Point Charlie. My sister, Sonni, see served in the Air Force. She was stationed in Texas. She and her husband eventually ended up serving near Madrid, Spain during the first Iraqi War (by that time she was a civilian employee). My sister, Randi and her husband, Shaun, served in the Navy. Though stationed in San Diego, they took multiple “WestPacs” to the Middle East.
While I never served (I have always been on the chubby side), I love this country. I am so thankful for those who were willing to give the last full measure of devotion. Because of this, I have traveled to Washington DC a few times. Each time I have viewed the different war memorials.
However, I have never seen them like I have this past weekend, August 26 and 27, 2016. This time I had the privilege to view them with a group of 25 or so veterans (and their guardians) from the Holmes-Wayne Veterans Honor Trip. There is something about viewing the different memorials when you are with actual people who participated in those wars.
We saw the World War II Memorial both at night and during the day. We also visited the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Marine Corp Memorial, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial. The group we were with had veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.
At each site, the veterans and their guardians would travel from bus to the statues or wall or monument taking in the magnitude of the moment. For some this was the first time they had been there. One Vietnam vet shared that it was overwhelming and humbling. I saw volunteers at the Vietnam Wall make rubbings of names for the veterans. These names were of their friends or former classmates, who never made it home from the war. Some knew only a few, but one veteran I talked to knew of 12 men who had died in Vietnam.
I have little ability to fully comprehend the emotions that the veterans must have felt being there and remembering those times. Most of them are men who have lived full lives and are retired (or very near retirement) and yet there is this eternal connection with others who served their country in this manner, at war.
One of the things we did that I hadn’t done before was go to Arlington Cemetery. We not only watched the changing of the guard, which is very impressive, but the group also presented a wreath to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Here were men and women paying their respects to soldiers who died for the freedoms we hold so dear, but whose names are not known. It was humbling to be so near to the event.
I am thankful that this group of veterans (and guardians) so willingly accepted me as part of their group. I am thankful that they shared some of their memories with me–even some of the hard to hear ones (like how poorly the Vietnam veterans were treated on their arrival home). I am thankful to live in a country that has a single city where monuments that honor our veterans can be viewed and their sacrifice reflected on. But mostly I am thankful for the service of all our military veterans and the sacrifice they made (whether in war or peace time). Although, I have to admit it, my heart has a special place for these 25 plus veterans I met this weekend. I feel like they are now part of my extended family, which is something that Elaine Hess, our tour guide, told Bobby might happen. Thank you, guys and gals!