A wall of honor decorates the Holyoke Vets Club, where pictures of local veterans are displayed and stories are shared. — Johnson Publications

Veterans Day, a time to reflect and share

    On Memorial Day the United States remembers the people who died while serving in armed forces, but Veterans Day is to celebrate those who live. There should be no difference between those who have seen combat and those who volunteered in peacetime, active-duty members and reservists, 20-year careers and two-year enlistments, National Public Radio contributor Benjamin Busch wrote for NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
    There are 22 million veterans living in America today, civilians again, mowing their lawns and waiting in lines. These are all Americans who, for a time, invested their lives in service to our nation and have become direct participants in securing our independence, he added.
    “We mention sacrifice on days like this, but sacrifice likely isn’t the thing a veteran will recall. It will be the stories. It’s these tales that make military experience comprehensible to those who never serve in this way,” noted Busch.
    Phillips County Veterans Service Officer Steve Firme shared that he was recently at a gathering where at least 11 veterans were present. Men and women from Phillips County have served their country in many diverse jobs and duties. Their military service has taken them across the country and around the world, he said. After all their travels, they have returned to northeast Colorado, which is a testament to the quality of life here, he added.
    Firme noted that he finds a great deal of satisfaction in his work with veterans. “As I listen to what is a small part of their stories, it reminds me of their commitment and sacrifice. If nothing else, their stories are a reflection of the cost of freedom here in the United States,” Firme said.
    American Legion Post No. 90 and VFW Post No. 6482 Commander Terry Barth noted that most veterans who saw combat don’t like to talk about their experience — it’s something they don’t want to remember. In many cases, young people coming out of the military today have a difficult transition, said Barth. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and it is difficult for them to stabilize financially, he added.
    After 20 years in the Marine Corps, Barth operates the Vets Club, comparable to a respectable military officers club. Between VFW Post No. 6482 and American Legion Post No. 90, the two organizations have 100 active members, said Barth. He preserves the club as a place where veterans can gather.
    US News contributor Paula Thornhill points out in her article, “Tale of Two Vets,” that this Veterans Day, we should all ask questions of those who served in the military. “The answers to these questions matter deeply to all of us,” she noted.
    “Veterans Day is a time to reflect, but it is also a time to help veterans find their voices so we can collectively find ours as a nation. We can’t afford to hold our veterans at arm’s length. We need to learn from them and see them for who they are — an essential part of our nation and ourselves,” Thornhill added.
    On Veterans Day, instead of thanking a veteran for their service and then passing by, perhaps take a moment to ask them for a story. Veterans Day is normally considered a time to reflect. Consider seeing it as an amazing opportunity to learn.
    As Veterans Day nears, the country is reminded that it is a time to honor veterans, but perhaps it is also a time to share heartfelt stories.
    Since Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day declaring the end of World War I, it seems appropriate to share a story from that war about a remarkable event known as the Christmas truce.
    According to History.com, on Dec. 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.
    The following is an account of the Christmas truce written by Kathryn Hawkins who is a Portland, Maine-based writer, editor and chief content officer of Eucalypt Media.
The amazing Christmas cease-fire, written by Kathryn Hawkins
    It was Christmas Eve, 1914, and the war was on. German and British troops lay stationed in trenches along the border of Belgium and northern France, aiming their rifles at enemy soldiers, their bodies pressed flat in the frozen dirt. The battle had gone on for weeks, relentless; it seemed there was no end in sight.

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