Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Honoring our Veterans

Lt. Col. Kirsten Palmer and family
11/9/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

As Veteran’s Day 2011 approaches, it is once again an honor and a privilege to thank all those who are serving and have served our country in the United States Armed Forces. If you’re reading this and are currently serving in the military here in the states or deployed overseas, here’s a special shout-out—Thank you!

Congratulations are also in order to a local girl, Kirsten M. Palmer, who was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force on Sept. 30, 2011 at the tender age of 38 years. She is the daughter of Ron and Linda Palmer of Cottage Grove and a 1991 graduate of Cottage Grove High School. She earned her commission in 1995 from the US Air Force Academy and also holds a Master’s Degree.

Lt. Col. Palmer is stationed in Washington, D.C. with her husband Major Roger Lang and their daughter Addyson Lang. Her title is Chief, Nuclear Logistics Integration and she works in the Nuclear Weapons, Missiles and Munitions Division at the Pentagon.

Palmer is a poster child for military recruitment. She exudes competence, enthusiasm for the Air Force, her job and love of country. Evidently her superiors noted the same qualities. At her recent promotion ceremony, the performance reports described her as dynamic, a first-class officer; a superb, inspirational leader; exceptionally skilled; and an innovative powerhouse.

Wow. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Palmer is one of thousands of veterans whom we yearly salute with pride. And here’s a little tidbit: Did you know that there are almost two million women veterans? Women have served in every conflict from the American Revolution to Iraq. During WWII almost 500,00 participated in some way; in the Korea era 120,000 women were in uniform and 7,000 were actively deployed during Vietnam.

The celebration of Veterans Day has changed over the years creating confusion for those of us who remember when it was a day set aside to honor those who died in battle or as a result of combat wounds. Memorial Day, is now the official day set aside to honor our war dead.

Our official Veteran’s Day now emphasizes on thanking the ‘living’ for their service to our country. We still remember those who have served but are encouraged to express our appreciation for those currently serving at home and around the world on our behalf.

On a national level, Veteran’s day will begin precisely at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying ceremony by President Obama at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and remarks from dignitaries. There is no outside parade in Washington D.C.

Later, wreathes are laid at different monuments and memorials including the World War II Memorial; the Vietnam Veterans and Vietnam Women’s Memorial; the Air Force Memorial; the Naval Memorial at the Lone Sailor Statue; at VA National Cemeteries; and a ceremonial sword cake cutting at the National Marine Corps Museum.

These are moving tributes—but how about you and me? How do we show honor and respect to those wearing the uniform and serving? Should we distinguish between veterans and combat veterans? What if we don’t know anyone in a war zone or even in uniform? There are so many questions.

I guess the place to begin is at the beginning: Respect the flag. Our men and women in the military are serving the USA and everything good that our flag represents. Most veterans hate to see it abused or neglected. As the flag passes in a parade, stand at attention and give the proper salute. Also stand for the National Anthem.

Make the most of your life. Don’t waste your time. Fighting men and women have sacrificed and provided us with freedom and opportunities that are unprecedented in other countries. Use and cherish those gifts they have given us.

Personally validate the person in uniform: Smile, say ‘thanks;’ tap your heart as you walk by; or engage them in conversation. It will be mutually benficial.

For those in war zones, take a moment to form a mental picture of their circumstances: blistering desert heat; cold, snowy nights; loneliness and uncertainty. Send small gifts to make their life bearable. Something you might enjoy. Check out an http://anysoldier.com/index.cfm for ideas. And pray for them—often!

Do something to make a bedridden veteran happy. There are many hospitalized or homebound veterans. Send notes or cards or best of all, visit a veteran in a local veterans home. But this is a little easier said than done. In fact, my idea bombed. I called both the VA Roseburg Healthcare System and the Portland VA Medical Center and got no response to my questions about visitors. If you do, please let me know.

And finally, as a confirmed dog lover, let me express my gratitude to The Dogs of War. This is something that we don’t often think about. Dogs are used by the military in war zones more than we realize. Check out: http://www.thenewx.org/forum/showthread.php?t=24412. They are heroes too.

In Guam, there is a memorial that says, “25 Marine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944. They served as sentries, messengers and scouts. They explored caves, detected mines and booby traps.” For them I send up prayers of gratitude and safety just as I do for their human handlers.

So, here’s to our comrades in arms—whether you march to the beat of ‘Aim High,’ ‘Above All,’ ‘Accelerate your life,’ ‘Be all you can be’ or ‘Semper Fi’ — Thank you! And may you soon live in peace.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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