Sunday, November 9, 2008

Take time to thank a fellow veteran

Although most cities held their Veterans Day parades yesterday, most of us will ignore the day except to get angry when our financial institution closes for their "bank holiday." My local schools will stay open on Veterans Day to allow teachers an extra day off during the Thanskgiving Week holidays. Our federal and state government employees will have a holiday, and many will take a vacation day Monday to extend their holiday.

As a veteran, I'll wear my medals in public today in church, and I will go to the Fort Sam Cemetary Tuesday to honor my fellow comrades. Yet, most Americans will not even understand the significance of this day nor will they remember that Tuesday is Veterans Day.

American military protect our freedoms to express ourselves in public. While on active duty, I remembered going to a public school symposium on how organizations could help their local schools. As the chief of community affairs at Lowry AFB, Colo., I worked with school districts to help their teachers learn how to call upon my base for speaking and educational resources. One school administrator, who looked like she was still living the "free love" era of the 1960s, asked me if I was going to teach her students how to become "baby killers."

"No, I am going to teach them how to appreciate the fact that people in uniform allow people like you to express their feelings in public without the fear of repercussion," I said. And, then I smiled.

About six or eight people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for having the courage to confront that woman. In time, thanks to the efforts of the 200 or more volunteers who worked with me at Lowry, we helped to overcome the attitudes of others like that one educator.

The moral of the story? First, veterans should be proud of their accomplishments to protect American democracy. Secondly, we should take the time to recognize our service. Lastly, we should make our elected officials remember the sacrifices of our service. The fact that unionized federal employee groups get both a retirement check and disability pay, while disabled veterans don't get the same type of benefits is one of the many things wrong with the way that brave men and women who protect our country is something our politicians can amend right now with legislation.

If more veterans show proactively to others what it means to be a veteran, more Americans will support the benefits and services that veterans, especially disabled ones deserve.

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