Why this Ma­rine and oth­ers es­pe­cially cel­e­brate this Vet­er­ans Day

The Sun News - - Local - BY BOB BESTLER Con­tact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

One hun­dred years ago to­mor­row, a day marked for­ever by the num­bers 11.11.11.

That was the mo­ment, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, that an armistice was signed, end­ing World War I — still the dead­li­est, blood­i­est and most grotesque war in the his­tory of the planet.

A cen­tury later, the hu­man wreck­age of that “war to end all wars” con­tin­ues to chal­lenge the imag­i­na­tion.

Nine mil­lion com­bat­ants dead, along with six mil­lion civil­ians. Tens of thou­sands of vic­tims of buried ex­plo­sives and the in­dis­crim­i­nate use of poi­son chem­i­cals.

Even on that fi­nal day, as the armistice was about to be signed, an­other 10,900 were killed.

But at 11.11.11, as a New York Times re­porter wrote, “four years’ killing and mas­sacre stopped, as if God had swept His om­nipo­tent fin­ger across the scene of world car­nage and cried, ‘Enough!’”

It is that mo­ment, that day, we cel­e­brate to­mor­row, Vet­er­ans Day.

I con­fess that for many vet­er­ans, in­clud­ing this one, Nov. 11 has gen­er­ally been just an­other day.

I never marched in a pa­rade, never joined a vet­er­ans’ or­ga­ni­za­tion.

I did en­joy the ben­e­fits of the GI ed­u­ca­tion bill, but I’ve never vis­ited a Vet­er­ans Af­fairs hos­pi­tal, never sought a VA home loan.

Nor have I been able to take ad­van­tage of mil­i­tary dis­counts that are of­ten avail­able for ac­tive and re­tired vet­er­ans (al­though on Sun­day sev­eral stores and restau­rants are of­fer­ing dis­counts to all vet­er­ans — a free donut at Dunkin Donuts, free wings at Hoot­ers, 10 per­cent off gro­ceries at Publix.)

When I mus­tered out, I left my ser­vice be­hind and never looked back.

In my four years (be­tween Korea and Viet­nam), I never saw com­bat and al­ways came up short when mea­sur­ing my mil­i­tary ser­vice against those who had gone into bat­tle and lost a limb or a life fight­ing for their coun­try.

Still, I’ve never been far away. I en­cour­aged two sons into mil­i­tary ser­vice (the Navy, un­for­tu­nately for this old Ma­rine); one of them re­tired af­ter 20 years and still works as a civil­ian at Great Lakes Naval Sta­tion in Illi­nois.

I’m proud of them and all young men and women who re­main in harm’s way in ter­ri­fy­ing lands as well as all those who have kept Amer­ica safe over all th­ese years.

“Thank you for your ser­vice” is not an empty plat­i­tude. We truly do thank our vet­er­ans for their ser­vice and pray there is never an­other “war to end all wars.”


This photo taken Nov. 11, 2016, shows a cou­ple look­ing at the names on the Cleve­land County Vet­eran’s Me­mo­rial dur­ing the Vet­er­ans Day and Me­mo­rial Cer­e­mony in Reavs Park in Nor­man, Okla.

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