Some late comments on Veterans Day
Published 11:05 am Friday, November 11, 2022
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
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The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
That’s the beginning of one of the more well-known poems from World War I, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. Perhaps your teacher, as several of mine did, had you memorize it.
Veterans Day was Friday and as has been the custom this year the calendar seems to be running a day or so ahead of me. But Veterans Day is far too important for me to pass up on a column.
It’s worth remembering that Veterans Day was established to honor the men who fought and died in World War I and was later expanded to honor all veterans who made the decision to serve — to go into harm’s way to protect their families and others from foreign threats.
As the son and nephew of veterans, I’ve always had a great respect for those who put on a uniform and serve their country and I find it fitting that we should honor those who decided on service over self to put their life on the line. And although I was one of those boomers born after the war, I consider myself lucky that my parents, both veterans, and my father’s two brothers returned from World War II without any psychological or physical injuries and were able to resume their lives.
So this brings us to this year’s Veterans Day. Vicksburg’s annual observance returned to the Rose Garden after a two-year absence. Did you go? Did you see the parade that preceded it? Since I’m writing this column after the fact, I’m not going to criticize and I won’t complain. I was there, just as I have been for most of the observances to cover the events honoring heroes.
We have always been taught to think of veterans as heroes and they are. But I’ve learned from my many interviews with World War II veterans, including Medal of Honor recipients, that they don’t consider themselves heroes. They will always tell you the real heroes are buried in cemeteries in the U.S., or at Normandy, Iwo Jima and Pearl Harbor.
To close, I want to borrow a line from Richard Winters, a member of the “Band of Brothers” honored in a book by Stephen Ambrose and the mini-series of the same name.
In the interview that closes the series, Winters recalled a letter he received from a World War II veteran whose grandson asked him, “Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?” The grandpa said, “No, but I served in a company of them.”