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Excerpts honoring America's veterans

12/11/2013

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, has passed, but it still is an issue every day. What can be done to help the veterans of all the wars we have and now are experiencing?

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, has passed, but it still is an issue every day. What can be done to help the veterans of all the wars we have and now are experiencing?

My wife and I spent that week in Branson, Mo., where so much is done each year to make veterans feel appreciated. Branson was full of vets from World War II to the present conflicts.

I was pleased to spend a few minutes with Col. Oliver North who, as you know, has spent many years in service and has done much good for the vets and shared his wealth of knowledge and experience with our government and with veterans themselves. He has made numerous trips back and forth from the Middle East conflicts and has a wealth of experience to share.

I am reminded of Tom Brokaw's book "The Greatest Generation," in which he talks of the experiences of World War II vets. I will share with you some quotations of those who served in both the European Theater and those who served in the Pacific Theater.

Joe Foss -- who was a Pacific Theater Air Force hero -- said, "Those of us who lived have to represent those who didn't make it."

Maurice "Hank" Greenburg, who was a "tireless boss of an international insurance empire" before serving, said this: "We don't wait until the bridge is built and a couple of tanks go across. We want to be the bridge builders."

Bob Dole -- who was severely injured and spent months in the hospital and lost the use of an arm -- said, "I have a daily reminder of the war because of my disability. It changed my life."

Daniel Inouye, who became a close friend of Dole's while spending time in the hospital together learning how to live without the use of an arm, said, "The one time the nation got together was World War II. We stood as one. We spoke as one. We clenched our fists as one."

Bill Mauldin -- who was only 21 during the war, contributed greatly to all of us with his cartoons of "Willie and Joe, two "dog faces" (infantrymen) and their experiences. For example, in one of his cartoons, Willle and Joe are on their stomachs, hugging the ground with bullets flying just overhead and Joe said, "I can't git no lower, Willie. Me buttons is in the way."

Tom Brokaw, in his book, speaks of interviewing Bill Mauldin. He said, "As his cartoons reflected the truth of what it was like to be up front, his writing gave us a vision of the future. Here is what Mauldin wrote of the American soldier before the war ended: 'They are very different now. Don't let anybody tell you they aren't. ... You can't pay in money for what they have done.'"

Veterans seldom talk about their experiences. How do you explain the feeling each morning as you start the day wondering if you still will be alive at day's end?

I am reminded of the writing by Col. John McCrae during World War I, entitled "In Flanders Fields." Flanders Fields is a cemetery in Europe.

"In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe; to you from falling hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.

If you break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields."

We were reminded in a beautiful one-hour salute to the veterans of World War II on Fox News TV 15 million veterans returned from the war and today, there are 1 million still alive.

We also were reminded every 90 seconds, one of us dies. We also were told of those who are 75 or older, one of every four is a veteran.

Arris Johnson is a member of the Generations advisory group.