2008-11-06 / The Walrus Says

The Walrus Says

By Jim Munro

Last year about this time we asked islander U.S. Air Force Colonel Tom Bailey if he would give us his thoughts about Veterans Day. Many readers told us the item was right on, so with Veterans Day coming up on Tuesday we asked Tom if we could print it again. Here it is:

"Several years ago, on a cold, rainy November morning in France, Veterans Day took on new meaning for me. All across the countryside, antiquated trenches were still visible, like scars marring the muddy earth. Large sections of each village cemetery paid silent tribute to the generation lost in the "War to End all Wars" that had ended 73 years before. As I stood wet and shivering on the broken, twisted, and rusting ruins of the fortress at Verdun at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of that month, I gained a better appreciation for the physical hardships veterans of past wars endured and the extent of the sacrifice a nation must sometimes make in response to aggression.

"On another crisp, clear autumn day, I stood among a field of white monuments, gleaming against the still green grass in Luxembourg. On that sacred ground, General George S. Patton and more than five thousand other veterans of DDay and the Battle of the Bulge were laid to rest. While the initial attack that plunged us into that World War killed fewer than three thousand, millions would eventually leave their homes, families and the tranquility of America to fight for freedom around the globe. Those veterans that returned home victorious have lived to share with us the fruits of the better world they created. Those that never returned continue their service to humanity in places like that one, as constant reminders of the high cost of the freedom and benefits much of the world enjoy.

"In years since, I have commemorated Veterans Day several times in our nation's capitol. On each pilgrimage to the smooth black wall of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, I saw veterans weep over their fallen comrades, touch the name of a lost friend, and toast the living who returned with them from that war, changed by the experience but still cognizant of the good that has come from their generation's sacrifice. Fewer veterans can be found at the World War II and Korean War Memorials, but members of those great generations are there too, among the many visitors to the memorials of "their" wars-shrines that pay homage to the men and women who answered the call in their times to respond to aggression and serve in the defense of others.

"At Arlington Cemetery, where

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . generations of men and women who have served America through peace and war since the Civil War are interred, I've seen Presidents honor our veterans, living and dead, with speeches and ceremony. There, if only too briefly, the partisanship and politics of Washington are set aside, and all Americans are united in respect and reverence for the men and women who have proudly worn the varied uniforms of our Armed Forces and especially for those who have been buried in them.

"America's veterans are anonymous heroes who represent many generations and backgrounds. They fought on many continents; in jungles and deserts, on beaches and mountains. They patrolled on and under the seas, and secured the skies and space above. Regardless of how or where they served, our veterans answered their nation's call with honor, integrity and determination- in a priceless gift of liberty for millions. However, all of our nation's wars-from the Revolution that gave us our independence to today's war against a new kind of tyranny-have been accompanied by great divisions in our society. In the midst of this turmoil, our veterans have consistently risen above the political fray and remained true to their oaths to support and defend a set of higher ideals that are embodied today in our Constitution. We remember them as selfless patriots who helped shape America's history (and the world's) and set a new standard of idealism and courage for all to see. For their bravery and sacrifice, they deserve the deep respect and admiration of a grateful nation.

"The members of America's Armed Forces today share in this proud tradition. All of us who serve have volunteered to put service before self in order to defend the nation we love and promote the ideals upon which our nation was founded. Through our efforts, we hope to add to the storied legacy of the minutemen and doughboys by advancing the cause of freedom around the world and laying the foundation for a more peaceful tomorrow. The current war may not be a popular one, but today's soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen are performing their assigned missions admirably and making real progress. We can all be proud of what they have done to free millions from oppression and plant the seeds of liberty and peace in a region of the world where those blessings are rare indeed.

"Today, there are 24 million veterans living among us, in every state and territory and from every walk of life. As this Veterans Day approaches, I urge you to take a moment or two to remember the brave service members of our present and past. America's veterans have helped us grow stronger as a nation and made the world a better place. We should be forever grateful for their courage, devotion to duty and, above all, love of our great country and the freedom it represents.

(Tom is on the faculty of the Naval War College where he teaches Strategy on Policy.)

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At last night's committee meeting of Boy Scout Troop 1, Jim Archibald was appointed the troop's new scoutmaster. He replaces Dave Volpe who has resigned due to new developments with his business. Jim has been chairman of the troop's committee and will relinquish that position to Tom Bailey.

Jim is an Eagle Scout, earning that rank while growing up in Bristol. He returned to scouting when his children became scouting age and has been involved ever since. His wife, Diane, is active in Cub Scouting.

Kudos, Jim.

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Incidentally, Jim was out with three scouts on Halloween. He was costumed as Stay Puft the Marshmallow Man being pursued by scouts Milo Digasper, Truman Christie and Ian Archibald as Ghost Busters.

*** The troop collected 1,400 pounds of food Saturday in its annual Scouting for Food drive. The items are stored in the St. Mark food bank for distribution to needy island families. Grandson Tom captained the drive and expressed appreciation to all islanders who contributed to the event.

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Mary S. Wright is the second island educator who has been honored for excellence in their profession. She was featured in an article about her award in the Press on Oct. 30.

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Call in your stuff for this column to 423-0383 or 829-2760 or e-mail us at jtnwalrus@hotmail. com.

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