Honoring those who served our country in war
One hundred years ago this month, on Nov. 11, 1919, King George V of England hosted a public gathering at Buckingham Palace to mark the one-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice ending World War I and to remember those who died in the effort.
In so doing, he started a tradition that lives on a century later, in various forms, in most of the countries involved in that conflict.
In the United States, which already had a history of celebrating Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, in some locations) to honor the war dead, Armistice Day became Veterans Day and a tribute to all those who served in the military.
Several years ago, the editors and publishers of Pamplin Media Group decided to begin writing profiles of veterans living in the communities served by our print and digital publications.
In the first couple years there was an effort to profile World War II veterans, many of whom were in their late 90s.
Many from that "Greatest Generation" cautioned against glorifying their service, echoing the assessment of William Tecumseh Sherman, the union Civil War general who famously said "War is hell. You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty and you cannot refine it."
Many balked at the notion that they were heroes.
Still, within their varied experiences was a common theme about men who found purpose in a noble shared effort that was applauded around the world.
Since then, our profiles have expanded to reflect the diversity of those who have served in the U.S. military. The 2019 edition of Salute to Veterans, which is inserted in print editions of Pamplin papers this week, features profiles of a few WWII veterans, but also the men – and, notably, women – who served in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and in the reserves.
They include Dundee resident Lt. Col. John Newhouse II, a decorated Air Force pilot in the Vietnam War.
Their stories show the complexity of service to country. Some veterans shared fond memories: the camaraderie that comes from living (and, at times fighting) in close quarters; the value of living in foreign lands; and the skills they learned along the way. And a few recounted true acts of bravery.
But many also showed a different kind of courage by talking candidly about their struggles to deal with the trauma they were exposed to; the toll their service took on their personal lives and even questions they had about the value of their missions.
Their stories help round out the picture of what it means to be in the military and in no way detracts from the one thing they all have in common: They served their country.
And, we're happy to salute them.
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