I know we are beyond the date for this year’s Veterans Day, but a bunch of us recently had a conversation about it and it really made me think. I was proud of the towns in this area on November 11. Each of them had a Veterans Day celebration and what was really cool is the towns got together and coordinated times so there were no conflicts. Folks could go to multiple ceremonies if they chose to. The local paper covered them all and it just made me proud to see it.
I didn’t serve in the military. I thought I was going to and was ready to, but the war in Vietnam was winding down by the time I was a senior in high school and they eliminated the draft and draft registration before I turned 18. While it was nowhere near the same, my little school had an ROTC unit with a regular Army Colonel and a Master Sergeant. The Colonel served in WWII and Korea while the Master Sargent served in Korea and Vietnam. Their accounts of those wars were amazing. They really reinforced to us the importance of respecting the efforts of all veterans. Even though the Vietnam War wasn’t popular with many, they helped us understand their role.
While in grade school I remember listening to the reports of the war every morning on the local AM radio station. They would report on efforts and responses. It certainly left a mark on me for a long time. I stopped in a local soda shop on the way home one day from school and sitting at the counter was a local young man who had just returned home from Vietnam and was dressed in full camouflage. I was surprised to see that a number of folks where definitely uncomfortable with his presence and I didn’t understand it at all. I remembered reading the accounts of WWII veterans returning home to pats on the back, hugs and the offers of coffee or lunch. I didn’t know this vet, but I found myself walking over to him and extending my hand. He really didn’t know how to react when a 10-year-old kid put out his hand. He looked me over and put his hand out and I shook it and thanked him for his service. He smiled and went back to eating his lunch. I also saw a few smiles in the crowd as I headed out the door for home.
Because I am getting closer to a senior than a junior in age, I find myself reading the obituaries pretty regularly. I guess the saying is if you get up and don’t see your name there, it is going to be a good day. I find myself in awe of the history of those that served in the various wars and where they were stationed and the battles they were involved in. Many were the battles we were taught about in history class or saw at the movies. I don’t know that I can ever properly relate, but I try to better understand each time I read one.
We are coming upon a very special time of the year called the holiday season. It is certainly a time for families and thoughts of others and a general feeling of good. I truly believe without the efforts of the men and women who fought for us over the years, this season would be totally different. So, next time you have an opportunity to see someone who served, no matter when it was, thank them and reach out your hand. See if you don’t get a smile along with their hand. That can certainly help make every day Veterans Day.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.
Image credit: Miroslav Vajdic