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Veterans Day: Answering a new call by sharing their stories

“Off we go, into the wild, blue yonder. Climbing high into the sun.”

Wednesday, my voice caught as I sang along with the Harmar Elementary students serenading veteran servicemen and women gathered at Settlers Bank.

I grew up moving from station to station, wherever the U.S. Air Force sent us.

And the words of our song still offer comfort to this military child, long after entering the adult world as a civilian–long after my calling to serve manifested through the pursuit of journalism.

But to be honored by the Washington County Veterans Service Commission on Nov. 1 for sharing the voices of veterans like my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle, brought about that same feeling of pride and gratitude that arises each time I hear the anthems of those uniforms.

Let us remember Monday, as we recognize yet another Veterans Day with handheld U.S. Flags, parades and patriotic songs, that the individuals who answered the call to serve this nation did not owe us their service.

They do not owe us their stories nor the details of their trauma.

There was no requirement that the inductees into the Washington County Veterans Hall of Fame talk with me.

But because they answered yet another call to serve, my literal phone call–they have offered, again, themselves in the service of their fellow man.

They embody the spirit of the hymn, “Have I done any good?” written by Will L. Thompson in the late 1800s.

“Has anyone’s burden been lighter today, because I was willing to share?” the hymn asks.

And by trusting me with their memories, with the details of their pain and the descriptions of their joy, they have allowed us–as a society, as a community, and as fellow veterans– to heal just a bit more.

Heal from the shame of how Vietnam War veterans were treated when returning from the controversial war.

Heal from the vivid images still plaguing those suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Heal the open wounds left by losing a brother, husband or father.

To those who have answered my call, thank you.

Your continued willingness to serve your community through advocacy, civic involvement and through the first drafts of history has not gone unnoticed.

Thank you for waking up to do something more than dream of your mansions above.

Thank you for trusting me to share your stories.

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