Saturday, November 11, 2006
Just 60 days ago, I was standing in formation honoring those who had died on September 11, 2002. Today I had the privilege of standing in the same location, honoring all the veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country. As I listened to the presentation, I’ll include a copy at the end of this entry, I thought of all those who I have known who have served our country.
I immediately thought of my father-in-law, Lyman Durfee, who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. I thought of my neighbor Ken Call and his service during the Vietnam Conflict. I thought of the many friends I had while on active duty in the Navy. I then thought of the many men and women who I’m serving with now and the tremendous service and sacrifice they are giving to their country.
Merrill was standing next to me. I thought of him and his family. He has shared with me some of the struggles that he has gone through by being here, some of the sacrifices he and his family have made. I thought of Aaron, being away from a new wife and an even newer baby. I thought of Steve and Ken, Slag, Jimmy, Larry, Ron, Steve and Steve, Andy, Burke and all my other friend, brothers, from 2nd Brigade who are each sacrificing in their own way. Of course I thought of my own family and all the struggles they’ve gone through.
Believe me, we all recognize that our families have sacrificed as much, if not more, than we have by being here. They are heroes just as much as we are and so today, we honored them as well.
Of course I thought of all our fallen comrades. I couldn’t help it. We heard a history of Veteran’s Day how it was originally called Armistice Day. I thought of the battles of World War I and II as well as the battles that have taken place since then. He mentioned places like Normandy and Arlington, Gettysburg and Iwo Jima. Men and women who gave their lives in sacrifice for what they believed in.
As I looked around at us all, I realized that we were Veterans. This was a day to honor us. I was humbled by the presence of the caliber of men and women that I serve with. We’re all so very different and yet we’re united in a common purpose, to bring peace and stability to this country.
There are days that we curse the Afghans and their corrupt system and their “en shallah” attitude. (It’s the attitude of we don’t have to worry about anything as God will provide – there is often no fore thought or planning and it can be quite frustrating.) But then there are days when we glimpse the potential that they have. It’s those days that make being away from our families bearable. OK, somewhat bearable.
I then thought of my friends and brothers who are down-range in harms way and I felt a great sense of pride in the work they are doing. They’re laying their safety and lives on the line every day as they go out on patrols with the ANA to try and rid their country of the scurge that is the Taliban and other terrorists. Compared with them, they are the true heroes of this mission. My thoughts and prayers are with them every single day we’re here.
Our German coalition partners were standing right behind us. The French were also there as were our Afghan counterparts as invited guests. I wondered what this day meant to them, especially the Germans. Well I didn’t have to wonder as my friend and former roommate LTC Frederick Schultze spoke. He talked about the illegal war begun by criminals. He talked about the wall that was built that divided families and friends. He then talked about a young, idealistic president, John F. Kennedy who came to Berlin when he was a young man. He talked about how this young president inspired him. He talked about the sadness he felt when he was gunned down in Dallas. He then talked about President Reagan and his admonition to Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall.” I was touched and moved by his comments.
Finally, we were able to participate in a flag raising ceremony. Just like on September 11, we were able to raise flags over Afghanistan, in the face of the enemy, to declare to the world that we were here to make a stand against terrorism. As I watched the flag being raised to the sound of our national anthem and then watch it being lowered to the sound of Taps caused me to choke up with emotion. I have come to have a new found love for the flag of my homeland and for what it stands.
“It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag."
After being here, Veterans Day will no longer just be a day on the calendar on which you fly your flag in front of your home and if you work for the government (other than Orem City) you get the day off. This day will now have new meaning for me. I hope that for those of you who have husbands, fathers, brothers and sons here, that you will gain a new found respect for this day and what it means.
Did you think to fly your flag today? Shame on you if you didn’t’.
Here are the comments from today’s ceremony:
General Mangul, COL Luljohn, COL Vitali, COL Furmound, COL Barnhard, SgtMaj Seward, distinguished guests, leaders from the Afghan National Army and Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, welcome to today’s ceremony and thank you for coming. Today is Veterans’ Day, formerly known as the anniversary of the Armistice which was signed in the Forest of Compiegne by the Allies and the Germans in 1918, ending World War I, after four years of conflict. The name was changed to Veterans' Day by Act of Congress on May 24, 1954. In October of that year, President Eisenhower called on all citizens to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly, and through rededication to the task of promoting an enduring peace. The President referred to the change of name to Veterans' Day in honor of the servicemen of all America's wars.
Today marks a significant day and is noteworthy because we are here together in remembrance of our brothers and sisters who have served before us. Today we have Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in our ranks along with our Coalition Force partners from France and Germany serving in support of the Global War on Terror. We also have our honored guests from the Afghan National Army joining us today.
In addition to Veterans’ Day, we will perform a flag raising ceremony incorporating the reading of “Old Glory” most familiar to our Navy personnel. Following the ceremony, you will have the opportunity to participate in a flag raising ceremony and fly your own flag over Camp Blackhorse in honor of your support and sacrifice for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining me today as we recognize our veterans for their unwavering service to this nation. It is certainly my pleasure to be here today and look out at all of you thinking that you remind me of the veterans – the heroes I looked up to as a child. It’s hard to imagine what the United States would be like if we did not have in our midst those who are willing to fight to protect our freedoms and spread that way of life around the world. This is done today by you; Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines working with our Coalition Force partners from France and Germany.
In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, the Allied powers a signed a cease-fire agreement (an armistice) with Germany at Rethondes, France on November 11, 1918, bringing World War I to a close. The "war to end all wars" was over. In November 11, 1919 was set aside as Armistice Day in the United States, to remember the sacrifices that men and women made during World War I in order to ensure a lasting peace. The name was changed to Veterans' Day by Act of Congress on May 24, 1954.
Today, we honor those men and women whose personal sacrifices have preserved our nation through the toughest of times. They embody everything that has made this country great. Combined with tremendous drive and self-reliance, these traits enabled our citizen-soldiers to succeed in times of peace as well as war.
Some ask, what is a Veteran? That question conjures up many thoughts and images but I think Father Denis Edward O'Brien, United States Marine Corps said it best:
Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.
Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.
Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.
You can't tell a vet just by looking.
What is a vet?
He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.
She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.
He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.
He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
In view of our upcoming changing of the guard with many of our dedicated combat veterans soon to leave our team, I express our recognition by sharing with you an excerpt from a fellow NCO’s writings:
In years to come when I’m home from those foreign lands, I will remember fondly and have great respect for those whom serve this great nation, a vision of flags snapping in the wind and hearty laughter throughout the hallway and chow lines, specters of the past. Gone home for good I will remember those days when the battlefield was ours and the sadness of those fallen. Wistful I will go, walking taller than before, proud to say, I WAS ONCE A SOLDIER
In closing, I remind you that:
"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag."Father Denis Edward O'BrienUnited States Marine Corps
Would you now please join me in a moment of silence?