Vaughn Hardacker here: Today, November 11, is special to our veterans. Memorial Day honors all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their life to maintain our way of life. November 11 is Veteran’s Day and it honors all who have served in our country’s military services not just those of us who are combat veterans. Always remember that although many veterans did not serve in a combat zone, all were willing to go if sent.
Those of you who attend the New England Chapter of the MWA and Sisters In Crime CrimeBake Conference may have noted that while I attended the first eleven (serving on the committee for five of them) I have been absent for the past ten. The reason, it falls on Veteran’s Day weekend and as the Commandant of the northernmost Marine Corps League Detachment in the continental United States I have any number of veteran and Marine Corps events (November 10 is the Marine Corps birthday–this is our 243rd year) which I have come to believe are more important than CrimeBake. A few years ago I came across a poem that really hit home with me and I’d like to share it with you. It is titled: A VETERAN DIED TODAY.
Flag Raising, Iwo Jima Island February 1945
A VETERAN DIED TODAY
He was getting old and paunchy, and his health was failing fast.
And he sat around the Legion, telling of his past.
Of the war that he had fought in. Of the deeds he had done.
Of the exploits with his buddies. They were heroes, every one.
Though, sometimes to his neighbors, his tales became a joke.
All his buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer, for old Bill has passed away.
And the world’s a little poorer, for a Veteran died today.
No, he wasn’t mourned by many, just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary, very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family, quietly going on his way.
And the world won’t note his passing’ though a Veteran died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state.
While thousands note their passing, proclaiming they were great.
The papers tell their life stories, from the time that they were young.
But the passing of a Veteran, goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of this land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise,and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow, who in time of war and strife,
Goes off to serve country. And offers up his life.
The politician’s stipend, and the style in which they live.
Are sometimes disproportionate, to the service that they give.
While the ordinary Veteran, who offered up his all
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension small
Its so easy to forget, for it was so long ago.
That our Bobs and Jims went to battle, but we know.
It was not the politician, with his compromise and ploy,
Who won for us this freedom that our citizens enjoy.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand.
Would you really want some cop-out, with his ever waffling hand.
Or would you want a veteran, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and his country and fight until the end?
He’s just a common veteran and his ranks are growing thin.
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, we find the Veteran’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor, while he’s alive to hear the praise.
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days
Perhaps a simple headline in the paper that might say
“Pay honor to this hero, for a Veteran died today”.
Every day I reflect on many of my fellow veterans who are no longer with us. Above the head of my bed is a print of Lee Teter’s painting Reflections and I spend a few moments studying it each day recalling all of my brothers and sisters who gave of themselves so that those who preceded us and those who follow us will be the beneficiaries of the freedoms which many of us take for granted.
In closing, any time that you greet a veteran saying: “Thank you for your service.” Shake their hand, if they are close friends or relatives give them a hug it will tell us that “Thank you for your service,” is more than just impersonal words like “How are you doing.”