Sunday is ordinarily a day of rest, a day for church and an afternoon for football, or stock car racing, if that spins your wheels. This year, it should be a day of thanks and remembrance for all Americans.
The federal holiday for Veterans Day is Monday, since Nov. 11 falls on a Sunday this year, and the local observance will be held at Veterans Park at 3 p.m. on Sunday. It’s the day set aside to honor the men and women who have kept the wolf from the door for generations.
For me, I don’t have to go far to find a veteran. My two oldest brothers both served, one for 25 years in the Marines, the other for nearly a decade in the Air Force. Our father also spent 25 years in uniform, serving in the Army.
His six brothers also served, many of them in combat. His own dad was a Seabee. The twins, Bob and Ray, were in the Marines. So were Uncle Laurie (short for Laurence) and Uncle James, who was on the USS Enterprise. So was Uncle Donald. Uncle Joe, the youngest, was in the Air Force.
The brothers-in-law also served; one, Uncle Ski, didn’t come home from Korea. Mom’s brothers, Pat, Terry and Jack, all were in Vietnam at one point or another, Pat before the war escalated in 1965, Terry and Jack when things got hot and heavy in Southeast Asia.
Dad never saw combat. I don’t think he felt he missed out. His brother Bob saw enough. Bob was stationed on Iceland in World War II, guarding a weather station in an area that was fairly pro-German for three years. Korea was a different story for Bob.
He was in the 1st Marine Division at the Chosin Reservoir, when a half-million Chinese decided it was time to enter the war. Bob and less than 20,000 other Marines were surrounded, miles from help and in temperatures so cold the thermometers broke.
They didn’t retreat, as Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith said. They just attacked in the opposite direction. They made it out — somehow.
Bob, a smiling, affable, fun-loving guy, rarely talked about his experiences in Korea. With good reason, I guess.
I have a soft spot for vets. Always have, always will. For the years I was editor of the paper in my hometown of Hinesville, I got to know a lot of the vets there even better. Some of them served three or more tours in Vietnam.
And they are there for every planeload of troops that returns to Fort Stewart, making sure those guys coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan get the proper welcome back for their service.
I never did get to thank my Dad for his service in uniform before he passed. I thanked him for just about everything else under the sun in his final moments. Never did get to thank Bob, Ray, James, Laurie or Terry either.
Haven’t seen or talked to Joe, Pat, who has some great stories about his days in Vietnam, or Jack in a while. Donald is battling the onset of Alzheimer’s under the care of the Veterans Administration.
So for them, and all the other veterans I have had the pleasure to meet or have not met yet, let me say it now:
Thanks for keeping us, and billions of others, free.