We must remember

  • Published
  • By Col. Dawn Harl
  • 97th Medical Group
Recently I was in Washington D.C. and had the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial. I had previously seen the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials - they are all powerful testimonies to the duty our nation's veterans performed. Monday is Memorial Day. As active duty Air Force members we do not always think of ourselves as future veterans - former members of the armed forces. We are just in the Air Force and doing our job everyday. 

My father-in-law is a retired Navy master chief petty officer, but my mother-in-law does not quite see him as a veteran. For that matter she does not see my husband (her son) who is retired Air Force, as a veteran. She is from the WWII era where her brothers were drafted and gone for over three years before they got back home from their war. They are veterans. Now I must admit that over the years she has come to understand that there are more veterans than just the ones who fought in the "big one." 

We have a large population of aging veterans and are losing thousands of WWII veterans every year. When we think of Vietnam it is remembering the nightly television news and the images Hollywood has provided. We tend to see the young man just out of high school patrolling the jungles. But Vietnam is an old war. These veterans are in their 50s and 60s. Our Korean War veterans are in their 60s and 70s. Our WWII veterans are in their 80s and they were the eighteen-year-olds of that war. The youngest veterans of the first Gulf War are in their 30s and 40s now and some of them have their own children fighting in the current Gulf War. 

There are more new veterans every year and many of them are combat veterans.
The United States is in the desired position it is in, with its first-world economy, its safety, security and freedom because of our strong, professionally trained military. With Memorial Day coming it is time to improve your remembering skills. Volunteer to help a family member or older friend who is a veteran record their military service. Photos, letters and military memorabilia need to be preserved. Writing down veterans' history is important. 

If you have a current veteran in your life who is deployed, start saving everything you can. Save all letters. If you get an e-mail from "the front" print out a copy and file it away. Have them take photos then mail the camera back home. Save, protect and preserve whatever you can, related to your veteran and their deployment. My father was in the Army and served in Korea in 1952-1953. He never talked about his service. 

He died in 1989 and all we have of that part of his life are some old photos of a young Army corporal in Korea, his combat infantry badge and the flag we received when he was buried in the Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wis. We must remember.