Veterans, thank you

My Thoughts

Dr. Bill AtwoodNovember 7, 2012 

It is interesting to note that only five days after this great nation has conducted another general election we have the opportunity to honor the very folks who actually make those elections possible: the American military veteran. Without them standing watch, since Lexington and Concord to this very day, there would not be free elections and secret ballots for those elections.

When I hear folks state that they couldn't be bothered to vote, or they did not have the time to get to the polls, my response is really one of disgust. More than a million men and women took their last breath while defending this nation and our freedom. Millions of others have come back burned, scarred, without some limbs, blind, deaf, brain damaged and several combinations of those conditions and somebody tries to tell me that it was inconvenient. Hogwash.

We celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 each year because World War I ended on Nov. 11, 1918 and the truce called for the hostilities to end at 11:11:11 on 11/11/18 because of the tradition of honoring the dead at the 11th hour toast, known as "The Golden Hour."

On Memorial Day, we honor the war dead and the war injured. On Veterans Day, we honor everyone who has worn the uniform of this nation. They have served us well and the very least we can do is thank them. Fly the flag, attend a memorial service, walk over and thank a veteran, and pray a prayer of thanksgiving. I remind myself that I don't speak German or Japanese because of their actions in WWII.

Millions around the world live in freedom because of American blood and sacrifice. The bullets they used and the bullets they died from allow us the ballots we cast on Tuesday. I learned that there were really only two people willing to die for me -- one on a cross and the other was wearing an American military uniform.

The one conflict I have with celebrating Veterans Day and writing this article is that Veterans Day celebrated on the 11th comes one day after the birthday of the United States Marines. My dad was a Marine and once a Marine, always a Marine. Growing up I knew the significance of 11/10 to be sure. I think my brother and I thought the Marine Corps Hymn was the National Anthem for the first few years of our lives.

Tun Tavern was where the United States Marines held their first recruitment drive. On Nov. 10, 1775, the First Continental Congress commissioned Samuel Nicholas, a Quaker innkeeper, to raise two battalions of Marines in Philadelphia. Prospective volunteers flocked to the place, enticed by cold beer and the opportunity to join the new corps. The first Continental Marine company was composed of 100 Rhode Islanders commanded by Captain Nicholas.

Every year on Nov. 10, the Marines gather and celebrate their traditions. Commandant Lejeune ordered the celebrations decades ago and Marines follow orders. At the celebrations around the nation and the globe, Marines will toast and tell stories but they will also cut a cake. This will be done with the oldest and youngest Marines in the vicinity, sharing the duty using a ceremonial sword. The Marine Hymn will be sung and lost buddies will be remembered.

I always get invited to the local event and I remember my dad and Uncle Earl who served so well. Earl leaving his left hand in a fox hole in Korea, saving the lives of five men in the process. He received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart.

Dad saw Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Guadalcanal, The Chosin Reservoir, the Gilbert Islands, Tinian, and other battles along the way. He served in the South Pacific in WWII and then spent a year and some time in Korea. He enlisted in 1942 shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, so Nov. 10, 1942 would have been his first Marine Corps birthday. I will be honoring his service 70 years later to the day as I eat that slice of cake.

So as we head into this weekend with a holiday on Monday, please remember to thank a veteran for the very freedoms you enjoy. Please think of those Marines you know and thank them. To honor them I would suggest not only saying thanks, but donating a new, unwrapped toy to the upcoming Toys for Tots campaign.

So all of you veterans -- Thank you so very much for your service.

To my dad's fellow Marines, Happy Birthday and Sempre Fi!

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