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FIRST-PERSON: If you are reading this, thank a veteran

MARION, Ala. (BP) — World War II affected my family in a number of ways.

My father received a medical deferment due to his ulcerated stomach and a special diet he was on, but two of my mother’s brothers served in the war. Uncle Raymond was a glider pilot at Normandy. Gliders made no noise and were used to get men and material behind enemy lines. The glider casualty rate on D-Day was 70 percent. Uncle Raymond was fortunate.

Uncle Melvin was not so fortunate. He came back from the war with what in those days was called “shellshock.” Now it’s known as post-traumatic stress disorder. I don’t remember ever having a conversation with him. He sat silently watching television all day and never held more than a menial job.

These men put their lives at risk to save our country from tyrants and dictators.

Our veterans are not always appreciated as they should be. Many Vietnam vets were disrespected as the war became increasingly unpopular. It may be that Iraq and Afghanistan war vets receive the same treatment as these wars drag on. We Americans seem to have little tolerance for long wars. England and France fought the Hundred Years’ War — which actually lasted 125 years — but America certainly would not.

But whatever the tide of popular opinion, we owe so much to our military.

A few years ago I visited with the late Frank Bolen when he came home from a stay at a Selma rehabilitation facility. Frank was a bombardier in the war and while on his 16th mission, parachuted from his downed plane, landing safely except for his injured foot. He limped around in Germany knowing just enough German to say “good morning” to passersby as he walked to the border. In the town of Speyerdorf he was discovered, arrested and sent to the POW camp, Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, for nine months until the war was over.

Before leaving his house, I asked to see his Purple Heart. He had received it only fairly recently due to the good work of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions. I opened the presentation box and for the first time in my life held a Purple Heart in my hands. As I did so I thought about the valor of so many wounded warriors.

A popular bumper sticker declares, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

On this Veterans Day, I think we could revise this message a bit and say, “If you are reading this, you are enjoying freedom of the press — one of the many freedoms we have. Be sure to thank a veteran.”
Michael J. Brooks is professor of communications and assistant to the president for public relations at Judson College in Marion, Ala.

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  • Michael J. Brooks