Carroll County Times

Dean Minnich: Veterans' groups continue to serve

The nation sets one day a year aside to recognize the contributions of military veterans and their families. It's sometimes confused with Memorial Day, which is the day we pause to remember those who died in the service of their country.
Veterans Day is for the living, and the context is that those men and women who served in military service deserve our appreciation for their active duty. So it should be.
So if there is a job out there, put veterans at the top of the list. Patriotic displays and speeches are fine and dandy, but a job, respect and a continuing or renewed place in society is more important.
What's often lost in all the ceremonial stuff is how much veterans continue to give to their communities and nation long after the dress uniforms, lying in the bottom of a cedar chest, no longer button up around the waist of those to whom they were issued.
Just about every small town in America has an American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Sometimes, it's just a storefront on Main Street; sometimes, it's a substantial dinner and dance hall venue on the edge of town, or between villages. Those who don't know better think it's just a private bar where old soldiers drink beer and tell war stories.
True, but it's more than that. We all know each other at a level you won't find in a sports bar.
While there is a social function attached to membership in these veterans' organizations, those who never served in uniform may tend to overlook the donations that are made in the form of scholarships to students for the essays they're encouraged to write about America and what we stand for as a nation and a culture.
Overlooked, too, are the gift boxes collected, sorted and delivered to the needy, the toiletries, books and other comforts taken to nearby veterans' hospitals, fundraisers to help fight breast cancer or other diseases, contributions of blood to the Red Cross, sponsorship of youth sports teams with uniforms, time, effort and, in some cases, facilities. Or just sending a small group from the local post to the funeral home to pay respects to the family and honors to an old soldier whose service is done.
Like many of my fellow veterans, I was a reluctant warrior. We did not lust after the glories to be won on battlefields or the exchange of ships' ordnance at sea. But it was our duty.
I gratefully returned home after I served my years in uniform and have sorted through the memories, keeping most of the good ones and discarding the inconveniences, dangers and downright futility of some of those military moments. SNAFU was a term coined in the military. It means, "Situation Normal: All Fouled Up." I cleaned that up a little.
Every time I see new veterans on the evening news, missing arms, legs, eyes and dreams, I give a silent prayer of thanks that I was allowed to come home in one piece and resume my life.
When I went through boot camp, I wondered what was ahead of me. For the next several years, I was without self-determination, going where ordered, without question, neither expecting nor receiving solace from commanders whose job required that I be used as a tool for a greater purpose than my one small life.
Each generation, it seems, has its war. My great grandfather fought for the Union in Gettysburg. My father, his brother and my uncles were Navy men during World War II; two of them were wounded in battle, one was buried at Arlington. My war was Vietnam. But all veterans are now brothers and sisters in time.
The young men and women coming home today are invited, welcome and - yes, needed - to continue to the work of the nation, one post, one neighborhood, one town at a time.