Vets' stories bring out best of our nation
When Pamplin Media Group published its first "Salute to Veterans" special section six years ago, our urgent motivation was to record the stories of World War II veterans, who were dwindling in number as the years marched along.
Back in 2014, it had been 70 years since D-Day and almost 70 years since the end of hostilities in a war that reshaped the world in nearly every way. We wanted to document the living history of individuals who comprised what's become known as the Greatest Generation. The following year, in 2015, we decided to repeat the effort, even as it got harder to find these surviving veterans, now aging into their 90s.
The articles and photos produced by our news staff back then gave readers a remarkable insight into the heroism and horrors of that era. Along the way, we discovered that the best stories went beyond the great battles — although those were certainly compelling. What mattered to the people we interviewed were the relationships they formed, the insights they gained and the life lessons they learned from their time in the military.
Over the past several years, we decided to move forward in time with the veterans in our communities, through Korea, Vietnam, two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. Some of the people we interviewed for this year's Salute to Veterans section had military careers that spanned multiple wars.
One of the vets featured in this section is Leland "Bud" Lewis of Portland. He is an outstanding example of those who made sacrifices and gave back to their country. After seeing action in the Pacific Theater in WWII, Lewis returned to Portland to continue a career in the Portland Police Bureau that included heading up the charitable Sunshine Division. Even at 100 years of age, Lewis continues to raise funds for the nonprofit organization that distributes food to the needy in our community.
Along the way, we've learned that our readers are capable of appreciating the sacrifices made by veterans, even if they have divergent views about our overseas conflicts, and the veterans profiled in this section reflect those many views.
It's always impressive to hear the stories of daring and courage, and there is an ample amount of that in these pages. However, it's equally important to acknowledge the humility that many veterans express. Their stories are really about service, not fighting.
Keith Weir, a Korean War veteran from Sherwood, summed up quite well the attitude we heard from many of the veterans who were interviewed:
"You should serve your country in some way. It doesn't have to be the military. It could be in your neighborhood."
Mark Garber is president of the Pamplin Media Group.
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