Thank our veterans

Ann Swanson

Tom Brokaw refers to the veterans from World War II as “the greatest generation”. I can see why he has given this name to them. I have known several of these veterans. Each one was proud of his/her service.

The veterans of that era have been exceptionally close. After all, they saw and went through together, who can blame them. They are also extremely patriotic. They salute the flag, remove their hats when the flag passes, and stand for the pledge of allegiance. They held reunions every year.

When our daughter was heading to Iowa to law school, it was a veteran and his wife who helped us out. When we were going to go to Iowa to find her a place to live, there was a flood. We had to cancel our reservations. A family with ties to my daughter’s boyfriend invited us to room with them. They met us at the exit of the Interstate and took us to their home. We ended staying with them for about a week.

What a help they were since they knew the neighborhoods. They could tell us what apartments to look at and what were in areas that we did not want to be. In the end, we purchased a house for our daughter because all of the available apartments were filled due to the flood. The house ended up being an asset. She lived there for all of her years of law school.

As it turned out they also knew another veteran who was in the same division as my husband’s uncle. I called them and had a nice visit with them. I gave greetings from Herb.

My uncle also belonged to a strong group of veterans who served with him. He and my aunt went every year to the reunion wherever it was.

I believe that the celebrations are really celebrations of life – the life that they were spared to enjoy.

More than seventy years ago D-Day was an important day. June 6. 1944 meant a lot to the veterans of that era. Nameless graves marked only with white crosses dot Flanders Field. Evidence of those graves was the backdrop for broadcasts during the anniversary celebration.

The poem written by John McCrae serves as a grim reminder.

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place’ and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Have you ever purchased a poppy from a child on the street? I used to sell them when I was growing up. I think we earned 10% of the donations that we brought in. I always found a good place to stand. That weekend I pedaled the poppies to earn money to donate to the veteran’s fund. At the time I did not know this poem, but now I understand. Poppies are a reminder of those left behind during the war. I had to learn this poem during my high school English class. That is when I learned about the significance of it.

I think of another war – the war for independence. What was it like for our forefathers who fought this war? Were they kindred spirits long after the last battle or were they simply thankful for freedom at last?

History records the battles, the heroes, the patriotism of the war for independence. We, the descendants of these pioneers, are left with a legacy and a charge to hold on to the basic fundamental freedoms which they diligently fought for.

It is this legacy which has spawned more wars. The U. S. has been called upon to uphold the banner of freedom. Today’s military might is comprised of “patriots” who sign up for service without being drafted.

I wonder about those who choose to kneel or sit during the national anthem. Maybe they need a class in patriotism. Maybe they need to understand what the pledge and the national anthem stand for. Maybe they need to be reminded of the flag-draped caskets that hold the remains of the patriots who died giving service to their country. Those who have not had the experience of escorting one of those caskets to their families cannot fully relate. Maybe that is what is wrong with those who do not show respect.

If children do not show respect for our flag I hold their parents responsible. They have not been educated to show their respect. Children mirror the adults in their lives. If we want our children to show patriotism, we must teach them and set the example.

A couple quotes from two former politicians give a great perspective: “Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country”. Calvin Coolidge, 1923

“What we need are critical lovers of America – patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it.” Hubert H. Humphrey.

Maybe it is time that we put these practices to work. Happy Veteran’s Day to all of our veterans.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at