Another round of thanks to the vets
Although I am not much of a Facebook fan even though I post stories on the Lahontan Valley News page, I can’t but help notice the number of military veterans who change their profile photo to a military one on the days leading up to Nov. 11 or on the day itself.
According to national statistics, about 7 percent of Americans are veterans, having been stationed in some far away land or here at home, having served in either the active military or reserves.
Many who retired continue to support and honor their brothers and sisters who wear the uniform today.
Veterans Day is one of those satisfying days where journalists learn more about the men and women who serve their country and why they joined the military. During my tenure with the Lahontan Valley News, I have learned more about local men and women who served including those who fought bravely during World War II. The LVN has been able to chronicle their military service from flying a B-17 over Germany to navigating a troop transport from a ship to the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion to island-hopping in the Pacific under extreme enemy fire.
Several days ago I read some facts about World War II vets, and how their numbers continue to dwindle every day. During the war, more than 16 million Americans served. Sadly, only a little more than 1 million veterans from the Greatest Generation still survive, most of them in their 90s. Another sobering thought: More than 500 WWII veterans die each day.
My generation endured Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The next generation served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of 2.3 million Americans who wore the uniform after 9/11, about 1.3 deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or both, resulting in 58 percent of servicemen and women fought in a hostile land.
According to government statistics, approximately 22,658,000 veterans have served their country.
Unfortunately, I was one of those 42 percent who did not go to Afghanistan or Iraq. Some told me it was a blessing I did not deploy; others understood the frustration of training for years but not deploying because the needs of the service were required elsewhere.
I talked with two Vietnam vets during the past week. Navy Capt. Robert Kerman, commanding officer of the Churchill County High School Junior ROTC program. enlisted as a 19-year-old and was a gunner on a river boat, and Thomas Keyes, whom I met this week at a veterans’ breakfast at Lahontan Elementary School, served in Vietnam as a young airman.
Keyes said the luck of draw seemed to determine who deployed and didn’t. For those who did not deploy overseas, he said those who remained in the United States were just as important because they kept the families safe and gave the soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines a sense of security while they were thousands of miles from home.
Likewise, two years after retiring from the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve and serving a handful of short overseas tours, I traveled as a civilian journalist to Afghanistan twice, once in 2011 and then the following year just as the U.S. was beginning to reduce the number of troops in country.
It was equally important to spend Veterans Day in the war zone, writing down notes and taking photos to chronicle the soldiers’ mission to such a far away land.
And like the hundreds of sailors and soldiers I met, they, too, were receiving support from family and friends, something I had also received from my worried adult children to my best friend who gave me inspirational cards to be opened during certain milestones of the three-week trip.
“Miss you. Can’t wait until you’re home. I love you very much,” said one letter. From time to time, I re-read those words of support or from the emails sent halfway around the world. They mean as much now as they did then … perhaps even more so.
Sacrifices begin at home, but as each serviceman and woman move forward, they so proudly serve the greatest country in the world.
Steve Ranson is the editor of the Lahontan Valley News.