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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Honor and hope

by R. HANS MILLER
Managing Editor | May 30, 2024 1:45 AM

I had the privilege of attending three Memorial Day events Monday wherein area residents visited the cemeteries in Soap Lake, Ephrata and Quincy to honor those who served our country and are no longer with us. 

Some of those soldiers died in combat or in the course of military service away from the front lines. The lifestyle associated with putting on a uniform isn’t easy and there are all sorts of reasons we lose those in the service. Training accidents, helicopter crashes and way too many more. All too often these days, it isn’t the bullet of an enemy that takes down a service member or veteran — it’s mental health issues related to the things people have seen and done in service to our great nation. 

I spoke with one veteran at the Ephrata event who said he’s lost 11 of his brothers and sisters in arms to suicide after getting out of the military. 

As a veteran, I can tell you that isn’t an uncommon story. There are amazing men and women I served with who have taken that ultimate step to escape their pain. Some were successful, and others thankfully weren’t able to complete the act and are still with us. Still, others have fallen into addiction to alcohol and drugs while some have fought a wide variety of mental health issues that have led to divorce, jail or other things just as tragic. 

Still, the events on Monday gave me hope despite what I’ve seen my fellow veterans go through. People of all ages attended the events that generally have a reputation for drawing only older residents and veterans. Hands were held over hearts as the National Anthem, taps and other songs were played to show respect for our honored dead. 

I think those who wore the various uniforms of our military branches would have smiled to see a veteran handing out two-dollar bills to young folks and reminding them to hold onto them because those bills attract more money.

They’d also smile to see a young man rushing to put an American flag back upright after it had fallen on the fence at the Ephrata Cemetery due to the wind.

We’ve got a lot to be grateful for in this nation. Communities that care about one another. The rights and privileges laid out in the Constitution. People willing to put everything on the line to defend our freedoms. 

It isn’t always about the nastiness of politics. It’s also about those little moments where a young woman helps a lady with mobility issues pack up her car after a Memorial Day service and so many other small but meaningful acts that make us all Americans. 

It’s also about enjoying the things our fallen troops died for. I always see things saying that the holiday isn’t about barbeques, camping and family get-togethers on social media feeds, but honestly, it IS about those things. Those simple freedoms are what my fellow veterans, alive and dead, served for. Enjoying those things is a way to honor that service. Frankly, I think we’d be failing to honor their sacrifices if we were to fail to have those annual events and traditions.

There are people whose names I want to share with you. People I served with who are no longer with us. 

First, Spc. Adrienne Stearns was a dear friend who recently lost her battle with cancer. She was a bright light and a kind woman who actually tried to teach me to dance. While I’ll never be Fred Astaire, we had a lot of laughs in the process. She’s the most recent loss, but there are more: 

Spc. Anthony J. Dixon, Sgt. Kyle Childress, SFC Charles Clemons, SFC Joseph DuSharne, Sgt. Anthony Parker. 

Others took their own lives and aren’t listed here out of respect for their families’ privacy.

Every veteran has a list like this eventually. Let’s hope those lists don’t lengthen too much in the coming year. 

Pride in service. Fightin’ Fifth. No task too tough. First team.

R. Hans “Rob” Miller

Managing Editor