When I answered our doorbell yesterday, I was met by the happy face of a neighbor and very special friend who is as “close” to my heart as any fellow human not born my twin could be. She – with her husband – lives just 3 miles away from my front door today, but when I arrived at Seoul’s Kimpo Airport to help defend her country 65 years ago she had not yet been born. We share between us not only a mutual love for and devotion to the United States of America which is our homeland, but a deep appreciation for the unique history which ties us together across years, miles and continents.
Both together and separately we have addressed or attended dozens of gatherings, on both sides of the Pacific in the interest of insuring that the struggle which kept the land of her birth free is not forgotten, and that those who fought that very costly war together will be honored and remembered across the “free world” and across the generations. Each year we gather Korean youth to our “backyard”
here in southern Utah for several weeks of remembrance, and many of the college-age grandkids of our American veterans have been introduced to “the land of the morning calm” in the company of this friend. And in addition, for several years, my friend – Sunny Lee of Springdale -- has been personally leading the families of U.S. MIAs on voyages of discovery searching out the stories of their loved ones “over there”.
I make reference to all this in order to introduce the exact subject about which I wish to direct today’s comments. Not only do I welcome the “THANK YOU” greetings our veteran headgear invite as we wend our way through everyday society, but this quiet “communication” which is a reassuring part of American life affords me a chance to let those I meet know that I am immensely proud to have had the privilege to serve; to actually represent the thousands - even millions of my fellow citizens who didn’t happen to have that opportunity.
Make no mistake about it; I hate war as does anyone who has held the hand of a wounded or dying friend or who has grown up in the family of a disfigured and damaged loved one; I have experienced both. On the other hand I have learned the meaning of the word honor at such a personal level that my entire concept of living a good life was changed forever. How do I pay for that!
When November 11, 2017 dawns, I will once again don my Air Force class A dress “blues” and venture out upon the public way in order to “rub shoulders” with my neighbors and perfect “strangers”, as I do every year. Not only does it give the people I meet an opportunity to think about and even speak of important things, but it gives me a chance to express my very personal sense of pride in having had the privilege to serve, and a visible reverence for all those American men and women whose ability to do the same thing has been denied them by the very cost of that service.
At any given time, it is estimated about 1.4 percent of our national population are living veterans. Talk about an honored minority!
Historical Note: At 5:00 AM on the morning of November 11, 1918 the Central Powers and the Allies signed the documents of armistice officially ending World War I. The “politicians” among them decided to delay the actual announcement until 11:00 AM, making possible the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month mantra which they thought had a nice ring to it. In those six hours of warfare 2,738 men from both sides died while more than 8,000 were wounded; needlessly. Nearly 3,000 men who would never get to be fathers, grandfathers, et cetera.