I was recently honored to be asked to attend the Milroy School Veterans Day ceremony. I have two grandchildren attending that institution with a couple more on the way so I felt it a great opportunity to enjoy the school with my grandchildren and daughter, who is a teacher there. There were several veterans there at the ceremony. I looked around and noticed that the World War II veterans were showing signs of age, and wear. It was sad to see the hell bent for leather teenagers of World War II now slower, older, and fewer than even last year. The Korean War veterans were showing signs of age too. Even the Vietnam veterans were older than I had anticipated.

I read an article about World War I veterans; they think there are less than 100 still living today. I can remember when I was also younger the papers making a big deal out of the last of the Civil War veterans when he died. The last survivor was a southern soldier, so the confederacy got its licks in at the end. It was sad, this passing of a time when family fought family. Brothers fought brothers. It was the turning point in the history of our country. And it had effectively ended. Unfortunately, World War I veterans are fast approaching this unfortunate milestone.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the youth of today would step up to the plate as those individuals did in their respective wars. Sure, some went reluctantly, but even those gave their all to the winning the conflict. They suffered, died, were wounded, tortured, held captive, fought like devils and won. They gave of their youth, their enthusiasm and patriotism. They gave so much of themselves for those years they served. Many were left on the fields of battle, known but to God. Others to this day carry their wounds, physical and mental, with them daily. Many were looked upon with disdain when they returned from service. Not always was our government willing to acknowledge their sacrifices.

These men and increasingly women of our armed forces of yesteryear and of today are indeed more than worthy of our thanks and gratitude. I worry seriously about how our youth will react to the next conflict that comes over the horizon, and there will be one, no doubt. The Citizen Soldier of today is just as motivated and good as were their predecessors. But the warriors of today increasingly also have civilian lives they have left for a time to serve in our active forces. Many probably felt it was an easy way to supplement their income. A way to spend a weekend a month and a couple of weeks a year playing soldier and gaining a little extra income.

And I am sure there were others who felt compelled to keep their fingers on the pulse of our armed forces. Those who liked the discipline and organization of service life and wanted to stay involved stayed there and remained involved. I would think there are as many reasons for being in the services as there are people in those services. Those who wanted help going to college, those who wanted an extra income and those who wanted a taste of service life but still remain a civilian.

How well this Citizen Army of today works out will have to wait for history. But I know that it seems to me they are doing a great job, one that had to be done. You can count on them during times of crisis, domestic or global. They are there for you when the tornado hits, when the hurricane decimates our coast. They are there when you foolishly take your boat out and get into trouble. They are there when you find yourself lost in the woods or on the ocean. Those men and women are there for us. Now let us be there for them. Don’t allow their sacrifice to be lost to history. Do not allow their service to become something we forget or just don’t care about.

Don’t forget what they have done for you and for me. Let us not forget what all of our veterans of today and yesterday and even tomorrow have and are continuing to do for us. Because of them we can voice our dissent, as we are prone to do. We can vote for the person of our choice. We have more freedom than any country in the history of the world. And we are the strongest country in the world today. Thank you, veterans, soldiers, sailors and airmen and Marines of today. And thank you to those who will in the future hold the torch of freedom high for the whole world to see.

Watch for Bill Ward’s column Saturdays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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