Talbot on Veterans Day
I would like to share an event that truly changed my life. On Sept. 18, 2007, I attended a “Home Coming” of a different sort.
My daughter invited me to attend a home coming ceremony at Camp LeJeune, in Jacksonville, NC. Her man, my future son-in-law, was coming home from Iraq. He had been deployed as a U.S. Navy line corpsman, serving U.S. Marines from the First Battalion, 2nd Marines Weapons Company. This was the return from his second of three deployments to this area. This was also one of the most personally rewarding events of my life.
We arrived at Camp LeJeune in the early afternoon, and we were amazed at the numbers of people who had turned out for the return of “their soldier,” whether that soldier was a husband, wife, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson or grand-daughter. Not only were we pleased that there were so many in attendance, we noticed the diversity of those who were present. Caucasian, Black, Asian and Hispanic family members all crowded into a small section of the parade grounds with one common goal: they anxiously awaited the return of their loved one from a hostile land. Most notably, I observed that people from very different walks of life seemed to have much in common. There were tattooed bikers and grandmothers talking and visiting amiably. “Red-necks” and long-hairs were laughing and carrying on as if there were no difference between them. Gladly, the only difference that seemed to be missing from this diverse crowd was political agenda. It seemed that there were no republicans, no democrats, and no libertarians who expressed views along political lines. It was as if all of those differences were set aside for the benefit of something much larger than each of the individuals in attendance.
Because the event was joyous, the atmosphere was like a party. There were pizzas, cold drinks and snacks for those who waited. A local radio station D.J. played popular music on a public announcement system. Children played games and jumped in the bounce house that had been rented just for their amusement. Farther away on the parade grounds, U.S. Marines who waited for returning friends played catch with footballs or baseballs, attempting to pass the time until their fellow soldiers could be released to the care of their families and friends.
Time. It is the marking of events in space, measured by the interval between the events. It seems odd that, for those family members who remained here safely on these shores, the time spent waiting on the parade grounds was only an insignificant fraction of the time that they had already waited. However, THIS time bore a significant intensity because of the imminent return of a loved one. Time seemed to stand still, and every second was filled with anticipation for the returning warriors.
The announcement over the public address system told us that “our Company” was being released to the parade grounds after their check-in. In just a few minutes, military arms and gear would be returned to the Camp’s inventory. After that, some documents would be filled out by the warriors. Then, with all formalities completed, these young men and women would be released to the ones that they love. Tension filled the air, and conversations ended, or were reduced to a hushed whisper.
Necks craned to look through the darkness toward the check-in facility. Soon, the anxiously awaited event would take place.
The 2nd Weapons Company presented itself, under leadership, to the awaiting loved ones. Their appearance was perfect, in spite of the nearly 36 hour travel (with numerous delays) from the combat theater. There was crispness in each Marine’s step, instilled in each by personal pride and military standard. The Officer in Charge presented his company to the loved ones, saluted them, and then the marines were released.
The crowd flooded into the area held by the returning Marines. My daughter showered her man with hugs and kisses, deeply grateful for his safe return. I witnessed, as a father, the love that she shared with this man. I knew that she had grown up, had chosen her man and she celebrated his home coming. She gave him all of the hugs and kisses, the warm embraces, tears and smiles that she had saved up just for this moment; she released them upon this young man whom she loved so dearly. I was overcome with emotion while I greeted my future son-in-law. My heart was truly grateful that he had returned safely to my daughter.
It was at this point that the whole event was turned bittersweet. As I watched the crowds gather around the Marines, I began to realize that many of those returning were not greeted by family or friends. While some were treated to the embraces of their families, these others were hopefully looking into the crowd, finding no familiar faces. They were alone. Their family members could not attend this function for some reason, and they were not welcomed home by the ones they love. Realizing this, and knowing what it feels like to be truly alone during an important event, I waded into the crowd of Marines, greeting as many as I could. I was a stranger in their lives, but at this particular time, I was there for them. At the very least I could offer them my sincere gratitude for their hard work. I gave them greetings, handshakes, statements of thanks, praise, and pride; there were even hugs. Each was deeply heartfelt on my part. And, in each greeting offered, I was also hurting for each, because no one came for their return home. These were the ones who would walk back to their barracks alone.
As the greetings came to a close that night, and as the Marines dispersed, I sadly remembered that some Marines came home having given their best, most sacred sacrifice. They shed their lifeblood on the lands of another, hoping that the recipients of this great gift would someday enjoy the liberties that we hold so precious. These soldiers did not come home to a joyous event and loving arms. Instead, they came home to their final resting place under an American flag, with Taps being sounded and heartbroken family members and friends in attendance.
I knew, too, that some came home irreparably wounded, either in spirit or in body. Recovery and rehabilitation would be painful, and might take years. Complete restoration might not be accomplished in their lifetimes. The scars they received, whether physical or emotional, would endure. God Bless them. They gave much. They deserve much from us.
While I personally believe that the politicians who declare a war should go and fight it, I also believe that those who have served this country in a military capacity should be duly honored. After all, each took an oath to defend this country, and each honored that oath.
To those who served in this nation’s military services, to those who trained, to those who suffered severe heat or cold, to those who bled, to those who worked in months of driving rain or clouds of dust, to those who saw their compatriots fall during hostilities, to those who came back to jeers rather than a joyous celebration, to those who gave their utmost, to those who left their family to serve the cause of liberty or to end tyrannical oppression, I salute you.
I am proud of your effort, and I am thankful to you for your care in defending our beloved Constitution.
If you are a veteran and we have met, if I know you, if you read this and say to yourself, “Hey, I know that guy,” or if I greeted you on the streets of Louisville, Wrens or Wadley just because the cap you were wearing stated that you are a U.S. soldier, if I offered you a friendly greeting because of the uniform that you were wearing, please know that I am honored by you and that I thank you for your dedicated service.
Sincerely, and with heartfelt thanks,
Honor our veterans
The Daughters of the American Revolution have been interested in and supportive of veterans since the society’s inception. The DAR Service for Veteran Patients Committee was established in 1968. In 2000, the committee’s name was changed to DAR service for Veterans recognizing that many veterans who need assistance are not patients.
The committee works to find new and better ways to serve veterans while always maintaining the DAR’s traditional service in VA hospitals.
DAR members serve in hospitals and clinics, state sponsored facilities and their communities. Veterans are honored at community events and DAR members work with community leaders and other organizations to find ways to serve.
The John Franklin Wren Chapter, NSDAR, has honored veterans by having receptions for them. In 2012, the chapter joined Wrens Middle School in honoring veterans and celebrating Veterans Day by hosting a reception for veterans after the school’s assembly program.
In years past, members of the chapter have served coffee and cookies to those waiting to see doctors at Oliver General Hospital and made trips to the Georgia War Veterans Home in Augusta to visit and present cards and candy to the residents.
Each year at Continental Congress, the annual meeting of the NSDAR held in Washington, D.C., awards are given to veterans and those who work with veterans. The outstanding Veteran Award is given to a veteran for outstanding achievment in personal, professional and family life. The first winner of this award was Max Cleland, Georgia’s Secretary of State. The outstanding youth Vounteer Award is presented to a volunteer 14-21 years of age who serves in a VA facility.
The Outstanding Service for Veterans Award is presented to a DAR member in recognition of outstanding care given to veterans.
What can you do to honor our veterans this year? Some things you can do include: fly the American flag, attend a Veterans Day program, visit a veteran or offer a sincere, “Thank you for your service.”
GOP is alive and well
The death of the Grand Old Party as alluded to in the editorial pages of such publications as The Augusta Chronicle and a number of other newspapers is greatly premature.
The elephant boneyard is going to have to wait a long time on the United States GOP Pachyderm.
It seems to me that every time one of America’s conservative leaders sneezes, the Republican Party is practically extinct, if you read the liberal media.
In my opinion, the GOP has any of a half dozen male or female candidates, for that matter, potential presidential candidates who could grace 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a magnificent manner and intellectual splendor.