Greetings Bay City! On Veterans Day our nation pauses to honor, respect, and show our gratitude to the men and women who served and came home, and to remember the ones who didn’t. I want to share a personal story. My husband Kin had already graduated from Oregon State University. We were married and he had just started his career working for California Fish and Game. I was pregnant with our son Matt. When Kin voluntarily joined the Marine Corps, a tour in Vietnam was the result of that decision; a decision that changed both of us for life. One very vivid memory from those years in the Marine Corps has stayed with me to this day. After completing his training at Officer Candidate School and TBS in Quantico, VA, we were stationed at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in California. Kin left for Vietnam in April, 1968. Our son was 13 months old. Seven months later I flew to Hawaii to meet Kin for his R&R; a short three days; a wonderful reunion, but a wrenching second goodbye. After the goodbye kisses and the last “I love you”, it was time to put the military men and women on the airplane. They separated us from our husbands, and the women were guided to the rooftop of the airport so we could watch the person we loved the most in the world board the plane, the ones leaving and the ones staying all trying to be stoic. We watched them walk across the tarmac, and as each man boarded, they turned to wave one more time and disappeared into the plane. One by one the small porthole windows filled with men’s faces trying to see their beloved one more time; and we waved back to make sure they knew we were watching. Calm prevailed until the plane took off and all of our brave fronts fell apart under the shared fear for our husbands’ safety. We knew they were not all coming back. That gut-wrenching realization brought us mentally to our knees, all praying the same prayer: “Please let my husband come home”. I know we were all bargaining with God that day.
In the Nov. 4 Headlight Herald, guest columnist Kelly Fitzpatrick, the Director of Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, wrote a beautiful piece: “A Time to Pause as a Nation”. She wrote in part that Veterans Day was conceived in November 1919. (I had just read in another article that it was formally recognized at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). She also wrote that this year marks 75 years since the end of World War II. Beyond these two important historical facts, she wrote something that stood out to me; that “The veteran community is as diverse and united as the nation they serve”. That was a reminder to me that our nation is made up of people with different life experiences, backgrounds, and political persuasions; but as Eric Holder Michael Mukasey wrote in the Nov. 4th Oregonian, “We have a system that relies on resolving political disputes within our political processes”. I believe more than ever that our veterans and our nation as a whole, have something in common: A great desire to serve and do good.
Picture this: In the Pearls Before Swine comic, Pig carries a “Box of Hope”. He trips and the Box o’ Hope falls. A limb spears the box. Pig and the box are hit by a truck. Pig tries to cross a wood platform from the edge of one cliff to another; it breaks and Pig and the Box o’ Hope fall. Pig comes home with the Box o’ Hope in pieces and he’s taping it back together. Rat says “Hard not to admire”. Our nation, our political system, and the citizens of the United States keep hope alive, no matter what. That’s what our job is; and that’s what the United States is all about.
I close today with a heartfelt “Thank You” for your service when your country called you. Thank you for making the sacrifice of leaving home, family and country, not knowing if you would be the one that didn’t come back. God bless you, and God Bless America.