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Monday, June 17, 2024

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Salute Vets Who Accepted Tough Assignments

Managing Editor Emeritus Al Campbell

By Al Camphell

Taking the easy way out, the path that is wide and broad seems to be the way of most people. Most of us shy away from really awful assignments that mean work that is extra difficult or dangerous. We can make all sorts of excuses for taking that easy way out of life’s rigors. Thank goodness there have been and are men and women who will not shirk from those dirty and life-threatening jobs.
As I thought of a Veterans Day without physical ceremonies because of the COVID-19 virus threat I had to wonder what our veterans, those who rest in Arlington National Cemetery or graves around the globe, would think if only we could ask them.
They are the people we honor, even though we can’t be there to hear the playing of “Taps” or the shocking sound of the three-round volley to honor the fallen.
I often wondered what it would be like to be asked to deliver an address to a crowd of aging fellow veterans and their families at a monument by a cemetery in which rest the mortal remains of those who went to battles in places we can scarcely pronounce. What could be said that has not already been restated over the decades?
No one would want to share the gut-wrenching assignment to be among those who were to hit the beach on D-Day. Few would raise their hand to join the companies who were to charge up Pork Chop Hill, or who went to the heights at Iwo Jima to raise the flag.
Who would want to have been assigned to Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack and to be ordered to bring up the bodies from sunken ships of sailors and marines killed in that attack?
Who would want to have been ordered into escort duty in the North Atlantic to guard convoys that delivered supplies to Allies in Europe from the United States as Nazi U-boats prowled beneath the rolling waves?
Who would volunteer to guard their buddies in the dark jungles of Vietnam as enemy troops snuck around them?
Who would give a thought, on the day they raised their right hand to take an oath to enter the armed forces, that they might be placed in a sniper’s crosshairs as they rescued their wounded comrades, and then be awarded a Medal of Honor, perhaps posthumously?
Who would want to be one of those chaplains whose duty was to join a casualty assistance officer and inform an unknowing spouse or parents of their loved one’s death in the cause of freedom?
These are all among the toughest assignments that have been carried out down through the years. As humans, it seems we never can live in peace. There is always something that compels national leaders to muster armies and navies, and our nation is no different than others.
As this Veterans Day comes and goes, let us offer a prayer for the millions who have served, and for the countless who have given every ounce of their being to the tough assignments they were given.
They didn’t go into battle under separate flags for separate states or ideologies, but under one red, white, and blue flag, often riddled with holes and tattered with blood and mud.
We will never be able to salute them the way that they should be honored. We can only thank God there were, and are, men and women who willingly accept the toughest assignments that can be given.
Please, never utter the phrase “Happy Veterans Day.” Those words besmirch those veterans’ toughest assignments.

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