Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Veteran's Day Remembered

I couldn't let yesterday go by without blogging.

And as a member of the finest military in the world, and the greatest National Guard organization in the country, I would be remissed if I didn't at least say something.

Yesterday, Albany once again hosted what has been for many years, the largest Veterans Day Parade west of the Rocky Mountains. The Oregon National Guard played a big role in the observances, and captured many memorable moments there.

As yesterday turned into evening, I reflected upon what makes this day special. In reality, it is all of us who wear the uniform, to be sure, but it is also a day for others who may not wear the uniform but who understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by our men and women in the armed services. Veterans Day is a time when we collectively thank all those who make sacrifices on a daily basis, and sometimes the one, great, final sacrifice, so that we as a nation can endure.

It's for all those who laid down their plows and kissed their wives and children goodbye so they could march alongside General George Washington to face the British Army. Little did they know their efforts and sacrifice would give birth to a nation.

It is for all those who perished in the "war between the states", in numbers so great, battlefields with names like Gettysburg and Manassas were soggy with the blood of those who were killed there.

It's for all those who fought in the jungles of the Philippines, and sounded the cry, "Remember the Maine!"

It's for the "dough boys" who bravely faced Kaiser's forces and helped push back European aggression.

It's for the brave souls who possessed incomprehensible patriotism and mental fortitude to join ranks with the very country who rounded up their mothers, fathers and sisters to be carted off to "relocation camps." Members of this unit went on to become one of the highest decorated units assigned to the European theater during WWII.

It is for the 1,177 crewmembers of the U.S.S. Arizona, who lay resting, entombed in a rusting hulk at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

It's for all the selfless sacrifice and bravery displayed at Incheon, Que Son and in "Mig Alley."

It's for the "grunts" who slogged through rice paddies, and braved the jungles of Southeast Asia. For those who "held on" till the MEDEVAC chopper arrived. And for those who couldn't.

It's for the first units who made their way into Baghdad, amidst burning oil fields and abandoned tanks. After chasing down and capturing retreating Iraqis, they had the compassion to give them the last of their drinking water.

It's for those who stepped off the back of a CH-47 Chinook onto a ridge high in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, never to return to the mortal world.

It's for the brave men and women who gave a little... gave a lot... or gave it all, in places like Fallujah, Najaf, and Basrah.

It's for my father, who joined the United States Air Force at 18, and for my grandfather who spent nine months as a prisoner of war in Korea, and my great-grandfather who fought as a corporal in Europe during WWI. It's for all of you, and those who support you, that we collectively raise our hand in salute.

As a people, we are indeed free, and forever indebted to you.

Happy Veterans Day.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

Above Photo: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Director Jim Willis (left), pins the Bronze Star Medal for Valor on Gregory Jacques, for bravery during the Vietnam War. Jacques, who waited decades to receive the award, was also presented with several other awards including the Purple Heart during a ceremony following the parade. The parade was the 89th such parade held in Albany, Ore., and is still the largest Veterans Day Parade west of the Rocky Mountains.(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

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