SURRATT: Honoring veterans is more than a one-day experience
Published 4:00 am Friday, November 12, 2021
Thursday was Veterans Day.
Since I’m writing this on Wednesday, I won’t be able to describe the city’s Veterans Day parade or the ceremonies at the Rose Garden, because they haven’t yet occurred and it’s possible the parade may not happen, given the forecast of an 87-percent chance of rain. The Rose Garden ceremony, however, will be moved indoors at American Legion Post 3. Then again, it might not rain at all.
But this column is not about the weather or parades or ceremonies; it’s about those men and women who served their country in times of conflict. They put their lives on hold to travel to foreign fields to defend their country.
I’ve often written about my family’s military service during World War II, but my father, his brothers and my mother were but a few of the people who took the time to enlist and serve. For my mother, it wasn’t a matter of defending her country, but reclaiming it. She was born in France, came to the U.S. as a teenager and then joined the Free French Army after Germany invaded and occupied her country. She served as a nurse on the road back to drive the Germans out and later became an American citizen.
But regardless if a veteran is French, British or American, they all deserve to be remembered, not just one or two days out of the year, but all 365. We need to remember these heroes for what they and what they endured. Veterans won’t call themselves heroes. Over the years, I’ve interviewed many World War II vets. When I worked on the Coast, I had the opportunity to interview Medal of Honor recipients who fought on Iwo Jima — they definitely deserved the title of “hero.” But the first thing each man told me was, “I’m no hero. The real heroes are still over there.”
I’ve interviewed Vietnam veterans who have said the same thing and many of them keep the names of their fallen comrades in their memories. When I worked for a small weekly newspaper north of Baton Rouge in the 80s, the moving Vietnam Wall was coming to the city. I interviewed several Vietnam veterans asking if they were going to see the wall. One vet who was a friend of mine said he wasn’t going and pointed to his head.
“My wall is in here,” he said.
So today is Friday, and Veterans Day has passed. For many people, Friday will be a return to work day because they had Veterans Day off. And despite the events surrounding Veterans Day, many of us will return to our normal lives and the veterans will again be forgotten until Memorial Day or the next Veterans Day. For me, because of my family, every day is Veterans Day and Memorial Day. The ring with a green stone I wear on my right hand honoring my father and the sterling silver hand from my mother that hangs around my neck with a cross are my reminders.
But you don’t need symbols to remember veterans. Keep them in your mind as you go about your day by remembering that were it not for them, your world could be very different.