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The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 signaled the end of the major hostilities of World War I. It was known as Armistice Day.

In 1938, Armistice Day became a national holiday, and in 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veterans Day. It became a time to pay tribute to all men and women who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces during war or peacetime.
The following are stories and impressions from some of our own Kenmore residents (names have been changed):

Courage Under Fire

One Kenmore resident who served as a Marine Corps officer in a tank battalion during the Vietnam War noticed that members of the armed services came out of the experience more mature, courageous, and selfless–willing to sacrifice their lives for a fellow soldier. He remembers that during combat one Marine Infantry Regiment of about 5,000 became surrounded in enemy territory. Though in a desperate situation, the courageous commander, Colonel “Chesty” Puller, USMC, yelled to his regiment, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time. We’ve finally found them, ‘cuz they’ve got us surrounded. That simplifies things for us.”

Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller was a United States Marine Corps lieutenant general who served during the World War II and the Korean War.

Grace During Combat

Jane shares a written account of her father’s experience as an airplane mechanic on the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier in World War II. “In May of 1945 a Kamikaze plane hit our ship just aft of the forward elevator, the plane stopped in the elevator pit. A 500 pound bomb broke loose and went to the armor plated deck and exploded. About 9 tons of the forward elevator went over 450 feet into the air. A photographer on another ship took a photo with the elevator above the ship. The pilot died and the Chaplain held a service on the fantail of the ship. Only a few of us were there. The Chaplain gave a good talk and prayer. I was glad I could be there and realize this pilot was doing his duty and deserved respect as a human being.”

While crewmen stand ready at depth-charge racks, Chaplain William A. Hulick leads a service on board an unidentified destroyer escort in December 1943. Several chaplains went above and beyond their duties during World War II and the Vietnam War; for these heroic actions, they would be honored with military awards and perhaps most impressively, a ship named after them.

The Value of Simple Things

John recounts a story of how kind words from home made all the difference. A rifleman in the 361 Helicopter Company for the U.S. Army during the war in Vietnam, he was discouraged and embittered both by news from home and the dismal prospects before him. However, about 6 months into his service, John was handed a letter, addressed “Dear Soldier.” It was from a 6-year-old boy, a stranger from the state of New Mexico. In the letter, the little boy called John “hero.” Through his tears, John became determined not to let this little boy down. Though the next few months put his life in danger and were the most dangerous and bleak months he experienced as a soldier, this letter from a stranger gave him the courage to continue and taught him two important lessons. 1.) Knowing that someone cares can give you courage to go on. 2.) When you know someone has high expectations of you, you don’t want to let them down. Grateful to be alive when his duty was done, John remembers vividly the day he returned home. After getting off the plane, he found a patch of grass to put his face in and kissed it. All the trees and people seemed unreal. The whole day was a celebration.

Respect in Diversity

Another Kenmore resident who became a Captain in the U.S. Army JAG Corps and served at Fort Hood, Texas, was impressed by the 40,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 20 who served at the fort. He noticed that though these young people came from all different walks of life and backgrounds, yet when forced to live in close quarters in the barracks, they found a way to get along, and learned to respect each other with little concern for their differences. Youth who had just recently left the comforts of home, learned quickly to do unpleasant chores without complaint and to give selflessly to each other.

Honoring Our Veterans

War is horrific and can leave tragic scars on its participants–soldier and civilian alike. Many find it difficult to speak of their experiences still. Such times can also call out the best of men and women as they are asked to muster courage, grace, and faith beyond what they thought they had. Even in times of peace, valiant women and men of the armed services do just that–they serve, united in the cause of home and country.

Veterans Day then becomes a day not to celebrate war, but a recognition of those who are willing to give their own life in service to another. This may not be at the other end of a gun barrel, but may instead be with a stethoscope in hand, law books at the ready, or warm blankets to give to struggling refugees. For these services and a myriad others, the best way to honor someone who has served in the armed forces this Veterans Day might be with a quiet thank you or two minutes silence.

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