The Bureau County Fair Board, Flags of Freedom folks and the women of the Illinois Valley Quilts of Valor gave area veterans a nice program of thanks Sunday at the Bureau County Fair.
Veterans from World War II to the present day were in attendance, and all branches of service were honored. All were thanked for their contributions to preserve our country’s freedom and way of life.
We veterans are all turning gray. We did our jobs as best we could to help save that way of life. The World War II generation, America’s “Greatest Generation,” is fading from us quickly now, almost gone. We cannot thank them enough for what they did for us and for the world. We have thanked them far less than what they deserved.
Most veterans have not boasted or asked for adulation for what they did in the past. Most lost their youth in wars where many buddies lost their lives. Many vets lost arms and legs, their sight or hearing. Many of us saw horrible sights we will never forget.
Results of veterans’ efforts give us today so many freedoms not existing in other parts of the world. From sea to shining sea, enjoy that peace you have been given, and give some consideration to the young men and women who gave part of their lives so you can enjoy yours.
Thank a veteran for his or her service, but make sure it is genuine. Don’t make a veteran uncomfortable by asking questions that would bring back unpleasant memories. Remember that most veterans went off to serve when they were very young, and came home with a very different set of values than those held by their peers who did not serve.
And remember, the cost of the freedom we enjoy in America today means that future generations of U.S. boys and girls will need to step up to serve when our country needs them, as the world we live in can be a very ugly place.
I believe most veterans pray for the day when there will not be a need for military service, but sadly, that time is most likely a very long time off.
I will close with a quote from Gary Hart (a one-time presidential candidate in the 1980s) that I find appropriate to veterans, regardless of their period of service: “I think there is one higher office than president, and I would call that patriot!”
Mike Johnson, Princeton
Note to readers: Mike Johnson is a Vietnam veteran.