Thursday, July 18, 2024

Letter from the editor: Thoughts on Veterans Day

Managing Editor | November 10, 2023 1:30 AM

On May 5, 1996, I got on an airplane for the first time and went to Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. 

When I first got on the plane, I was wearing a heavy sweater and by the time I got to the airport in St. Louis, I found the need to switch over to a T-shirt in record time. It was frosty in my home state of Montana, but Missouri was already in full summer (to me) swing with temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s. 

Over the next four years, I was privileged to spend time at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern, Germany — just a few kilometers from Ramstein Air Base — and with a wonderfully dysfunctional family-like unit at Fort Hood in Texas. I realized how big the world was and how wonderful it is in all that it contains and, quite frankly, I changed from a self-centered kid into a man who cared about something bigger than myself. My time in the U.S. Army — my enlistment ended in May of 2000 — made me a better person and I’ve always considered it a privilege to have been in that uniform. 

Well… maybe not when I was sweeping sand off parking lots in Texas windstorms, but no job is all roses and potlucks all the time. 

This Saturday is Veterans Day. It’s a time when people come up to me and thank me for my service, which I still feel a bit uncomfortable accepting, so before I awkwardly mumble something back, let me say clearly — It was my privilege and one of the greatest honors of my life.

That said, while veterans like myself appreciate the discounts, free breakfasts and thank yous, there are some ways that you can show appreciation for our service that are, at least in my opinion, even better than those. 

Locally, support organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts in our communities. Those lodges are more than just clubs. They’re filled with people who not only served in the military but also served at home. If you can volunteer at one of their events where they may need the help of someone to move some tables, help clean up or point people in the right direction, pitch in.

On a day-to-day basis, remember that the oath we swore included supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States of America. Use the rights we stood up to defend and remember that those rights are also responsibilities. 

First Amendment: Be kind to everyone of all faiths and support the good works of your church. Read your local paper (yep, shameless plug, but remember this is also part of why I’m in the career I’m in) and remember to be honest and speak in a way that does as little harm to the world as possible. Attend public meetings at City Hall, the county courthouse and other places when you see a problem — and remember to offer to be a part of the solution.

Second Amendment: Remember that the firearms you may own are a grave responsibility. Be safe with them and teach those around you to be safe. Don’t handle firearms while under the influence of alcohol or any other substance. Secure your weapons and make sure children don’t have easy access to them. And — support the Reserve and National Guard servicemembers. They may be part-time, but over the last two decades, they’ve logged an incredible amount of deployment time. Lift them up in prayer and positivity whenever possible.

Third Amendment: While you’re not obligated to host active duty service members in your homes, remember to support those who are fighting the epidemic of veteran homelessness. Brothers and sisters I served with have faced homelessness and, to my knowledge, all are in better situations now. However, there are way too many out there still facing cold nights with no shelter while often struggling with the mental health or substance abuse — stemming from service-related incidents — that got them there. Please show them compassion and kindness.

Memorial Day is its own holiday to remember those who died in service, but on Veterans Day, please remember that many veterans like myself are remembering brothers and sisters we lost in service or after. Remember that many vets think of those who aren’t with us anymore and wish we could celebrate with them again.

Also — please remember to vote. There are men and women out there who put their lives on the line so you’d have that right. Go forth and honor them by educating yourselves about the options on the ballot and voting your conscience. 

Finally, make sure you enjoy your lives to the fullest and make the wounds sustained, friends lost and hardships endured worth it. All we wanted was to ensure you had those freedoms and a wonderful life. We stepped up and put on those uniforms so you could enjoy a barbeque, cast your vote, raise your families and enjoy all this great nation has to offer. 

Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to serve you now at the paper, and then as a soldier.

With service in mind,

R. Hans “Rob” Miller
Managing Editor
Columbia Basin Herald