Your Turn: A thank-you to our veterans today and every day

Military service is an honorable tradition in our country. Accordingly, Nov. 11 is a federal holiday. President Dwight Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation. Eisenhower stated that a “grateful nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation.”

Separation from family, duty under extreme conditions, lack of privacy in living conditions, and exposure to enemy attacks are part of military service. Today while you enjoy your way of life, service members are deployed around the world to protect you. Sailors in the Navy ensure our ability to conduct trade throughout the oceans of the world. Soldiers in the Army protect our important allies such as South Korea from aggression. Airmen of the Air Force protect our airspace from another 9/11 and move troops around the world. Marines deploy with the Navy and stand ready to take action on shore from the sea. Members of the Coast Guard conduct illicit drug interdiction and work to prevent human smuggling. Our newest military service, the United States Space Force, conducts operations with satellites orbiting Earth. There are many other examples of the efforts of our military that protect our national interests and our way of life.

Congress, in some cases, has granted veteran status to civilians who have served in danger during wartime. One such case is the designation of civilian sailors of the Merchant Marine who sailed during World War II to effect resupply for our forces overseas. These brave civilian mariners traveled in lightly defended convoys and were subject to enemy air and submarine attack. They are veterans.

Veterans gain life experiences that later result in direct contributions to civil society. One such exemplar was professor Richard Schiefelbusch of the University of Kansas. He flew on a B-24 bomber against Nazi Germany in 1943. His airplane was shot down after attacking the U-boat submarine facilities. He was rescued from the Baltic Sea and became a prisoner of war. After two years in captivity as a POW and discharge from active service in 1945, he met his young son for the first time and then returned to KU. He was the founder of one of KU’s most important research elements, the Kansas Bureau of Child Research, renamed in 1990 as the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies. The lessons he learned in wartime regarding optimism in the face of adversity and persistence of effort where he confronted real fascists enabled him later to inspire the work of others to enrich the lives of children. It seems unlikely that fighting Nazis would result years later in better methods to improve the quality of life of children with disabilities, but it did!

Veterans contribute to business and government in our local community in many ways not widely known. Did you know that many of our dentists in Lawrence served in the United States Air Force Dental Corps? There are more such stories of the contributions of veterans to our local community.

Perhaps you know a military veteran. Please thank them for their honorable service. The Lawrence Veterans Day Parade Association was incorporated to raise awareness of the sacrifices of veterans and their families. Due to the generosity of our donors, we can defray the costs associated with the conduct of a Veterans Day Parade and support charity activities for local veterans in crisis. We’ve provided support to the dental care of veterans without dental insurance. We’ve helped to prevent homelessness of veterans with rent assistance. We’ve made sure a veteran and his family could enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner after their abode was destroyed by fire.

We wish we could hold a parade this year in honor of our veterans as has been the recent custom. The public health emergency precluded a parade for 2020. If you lead a business, please honor your veteran employees with a sign, staff meeting recognition, or a special snack in the break room.

Each veteran took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Veterans are special citizens who, for part of their lives, placed their self-interest beneath yours to protect you, our constitutional republic, allies and national interests. Such life choices on your behalf are worthy of your thanks.

— Michael Kelly served in the United States Air Force. He is chairperson of the Lawrence Veterans Day Parade Association.

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