It's sometimes easy to not pay attention to people who are no longer in the limelight on a daily basis. In a society that seems to value "What have you done for me today?" so much, the rich and famous today are often the poor and forgotton tomorrow.
But real riches and real fame, to me, comes from those who have given and given, regardless of the notoriety or the pay.
This past few weeks I have had the honor of putting together a special section called "Those who have served" that will be coming out on Veterans Day, Novermber 11. I call it an honor because I have been able to speak to so many wonderful men and women who have given so much so that I can write the words I want to write on this page, without fear of someone taking my liberty or my life away.
Since we began advertising for veterans to bring in photos and information about their time in the service, over 160 have come by the office to see us. These overwhelming numbers have actually created a slight crisis because we did not expect that kind of response. I originally was encouraging people to bring in as many photos as they wanted from their service days. But as the photography and the memories started to flood in, I realized there was little chance of me ever including even a fraction of the veterans photos beyond their service shots in the special. There are literally hundreds of them.
But more to the point, I found myself wanting to laugh at times and more often, I had tears in my eyes as I talked with various veterans and their families. The story of war and lost loved ones was an open reminder to me of how much we all owe the men and women who have served, regardless of their duty or their station.
One of the World War II veterans who came in to see me told me that of the 16 million people who served in the armed forces during that conflict, only one million actually saw combat operations. He was one of the later.
"But it doesn't matter where they served or what they did it took every one of them to win that war," he said.
The touching things stick with me the most. A telegram sent by the war department declaring a son and brother dead. Rations stamps with names written on them. A letter from a mother to a son who was in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. A final letter from a young man who turned 21 on the day he was killed in Vietnam. Photos of veterans with young happy faces before the war, blurry and fearful looks in the war, and very grown up images after the war. Other photos of families who went off to fight, one of six brothers, five in the Army one in the Navy, lined up ready to defend their country.
But more than the sights were the sounds. Stories of loneliness and pain; of fear and anxiety.
My hope is that when the special comes out next Tuesday it will not only be those that served that will look through it. I hope that everyone who sees or even touches our newspaper takes a good look at it and salutes our community members that served, some of who gave it all to keep us free.
It's the least we can do because we owe them so much.