Our Sentry’s, Our Protectors: Gratitude to our Vets

Veterans Day Photo © Rick BethemTo all the veterans of our nation, past and present:  I honor you.  For your courage in the face of death.  For your generosity of spirit.  For your selflessness and faith in your nation. Veteran’s Day is always a special day in our household, as I’m sure it is for the majority of Americans, and today will be no different.  In our family, we have a long history of service within just a few generations.  My father-in-law, Ed, was in Normandy in World War II as were both of his brothers. My husband was in Vietnam, and his brother Tom served in the Navy during that same war.  My stepson, Blake, was in the Marines in the 90’s and fortunately didn’t have to live the horror and destruction of a war, as did neither my sister, Denise, or I.  It was truly by fate that my father-in-law and I were both attached to the Big Red One, 1st Infantry Division, for those that aren’t familiar with the historical division.  The Big Red One was truly instrumental in their heroism, courage, and success during the Normandy Invasion, as experienced by Ed Bethem when he was awarded the Bronze Star. During the invasion, his vehicle submerged in deep surf, and at great personal risk, assisted his fellow helpless soldiers to shore, saving many from certain drowning.  But Ed was just that kinda guy.  The kind you’d want covering you in a foxhole.  The kind you’d want as your best man.  Or as your husband.  He was a quiet man, reserved, but you could always tell there was a lot of thought running through his mind.  When he did speak, it was always deliberate and provocative.  Many have romanticized war and our family certainly knows first hand how that happens.  You see, Ed’s brother, Walter, also serving at the same time that his two brothers (Ed & Wilbert) were, was stationed in France.  As the story goes, a family in a rural section of France helped him and his fellow soldiers by providing food and shelter to them while waiting for the rest of their company to join them.  They were staying in the barn of the family’s farm, well hidden from the enemy.  Well, the family had a beautiful daughter named Marguerite who took a special liking to Walter, and vice versa.  After peace was announced and the war was over, Walter went back to France looking for her and to this day, 60+ years later, they are living a great life with a beautiful family and a gaggle of grandkids in Pennsylvania.  Funny, there actually are good things that can come from wars.  Love.  Awakenings.  Respect.  Children.   Many woman, to include my mother-in-law Bets (as we call her) remember the sacrifices they made here at home while their men were off to war.  Of course, every war is different.   But every war is the same.  Different horrors, different weapons, different agendas.  But there’s still a lot of similarity that holds each soldier’s hands:  A deep-seeded love for country.  For freedoms.  Whether it be to keep our nation safe from the intrusions of those that are trying to hurt us, or to support those countries that are trying to institute democracy.  I believe with all my heart that it will never change.  It has been the same since our infant nation was born and it will go on long after we’re dead.  The fight for freedoms.  I couldn’t be prouder to be an American than I am today, although my pride has never waivered.   I firmly believe in giving back, as any of you know that have read my blog articles or know me personally, there’s a well-ingrained, almost innate desire that we need to give back for all that we’ve received.  That was my reason for signing up and I would have gladly given life or limb to the country that has made me a small part of the greatest nation on earth.  No matter what your politics, there is the sense that we never give up and that we never back down to those that mean us harm.   Listening to talk radio earlier today I heard a pundit voice his opinion on the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He said that should we lose the battle and democracy never be experienced by either or both countries, that all the men and woman that gave their blood on the sands and mountains will have died in vain.  Well, that didn’t settle well with me and I thought about it for quite a while.  I’ve come to the conclusion that no fight, no action, no war is ever in vain.  Were the soldier’s goals any different because we didn’t win, (if we don’t?)  NO.   Whether in heaven or on earth, I just don’t think you’ll ever find a soldier that will tell you that because the outcome wasn’t in line with their goals, that their goals were wrong, misguided or in vain.  There’s a saying that I have kept on my desk since the early 80’s, passed down from my husband, and they are words that, during good times and tumultuous times (most importantly) have carried me through.  Press On: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not:  Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; The world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination, alone, are omnipotent. — Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of these United States.