Honoring those who’ve fallen
Appeal Staff Writer
Four generations of soldiers stood in a line and at attention Saturday morning at the Dayton ceremony as “Taps” played over a small sound system. Tears did not roll down cheeks nor did any of the 20 veterans break their faraway gaze as they saluted the flag.
As the final note rang off the Comstock hillside decorated in fall oranges and browns, some mouthed the song’s final verse, “God is nigh,” paused, then turned to one another with greetings of hugs and handshakes.
Many of the men had never before met one another.
“That’s the brotherhood of being a veteran,” said Stan Destwolinski, post commander of local VFW Post 8660 and Saturday’s master of ceremonies.
“When these men and women see each other at the post, they discuss today’s current events -the war in Afghanistan and Iraq – they all have opinions and stories to share,” he said. “Veterans are a unique bunch, though. Oftentimes, they only share with one another.”
Such is the case with Quentin McColl, 85, who served in the Pacific Theater of World War II in the Navy from 1942-46. McColl downplayed his own service in favor of talking about what Veterans Day has come to mean for him.
“I think of all those who’ve fallen,” he said. “Serving your country, to me -is an honor. I think of those who can’t be here today and their dedication.”
McColl, a Dayton resident of 31 years, said he’s been a member of the VFW since 1964. He’s seen first-hand changes from the way wars are fought, to the kind of enemy soldiers face. But one thing remains true: the soldiers themselves.
“When you meet someone who’s served, they seem to share a similar story – certain things to them are important,” he said. “Certain things we all hold true.”
Standing next to McColl during the ceremony was Stagecoach resident Cliff Yeater, who retired from the Marine Corps in 1991 after serving in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm.
Yeater, who now teaches history to inmates at Warm Springs Correctional Center, said serving is tradition in his family -and while Veterans Day is one to honor all who’ve served – he can’t help but recognize those who’ve fallen.
“I had a cousin killed in Vietnam,” he said. “My father died four years ago – and he was a World War II vet. I think about them. I think about those who gave their life serving and those who were able to come home, but have since passed.
“Even though I served, for me – it’s a time to recognize the men and women who fought for us – who are still fighting today.”
As the small crowd of veterans and a handful of family members dispersed into the early morning silence of the graveyard, few paused to talk. There was no cheese plate to pass around, no morning coffee, just the starting of car engines and the silent recognition of those who’d given so much.
One of the last to leave, Yeater took one look down from the quiet hillside as American flags flapped lazily in the morning breeze over the headstones of the departed.
“This is a peaceful place,” he said. “It’s a lovely place where people can come and remember – I thought, when my time comes, that I would like to rest here.”