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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

Weekly deadlines being what they are, I am writing this on Veterans Day. By the time you read it, homage paid to American veterans on the day set aside for them probably will have been forgotten. Sorry about that.

When I was a small child, Nov. 11 was called Armistice Day because that was the anniversary of the end the Great War which is what World War I was called before World War II. First World War veterans were about all we had then. As I recall, it was a much more important holiday than it is today.

Later the name change was made to include veterans of all wars. A second veterans holiday, Memorial Day. Once called Decoration Day, it is a day set aside to honor servicemen killed in the line of duty.

Somewhere along the line, it was changed to Memorial Day and became an excuse to have a three-day weekend, Indy car races and to kick off summer blockbuster movies. With the exception of Desert Storm, many young folks don't remember when American was at war, which is a good thing; the fewer wars the better.

Others remember Vietnam. But it was such an unpopular war that the American public in general failed to give the vets the hero's welcome they so richly deserved. It's unfortunate that those called on to fight wars aren't allowed to choose the causes they fight for.

The Korean War and first and second World Wars are ancient history to many Americans. The Korean War, like Vietnam, was an unpopular war and is now referred to as the "forgotten war."

The number of WWI vets is dwindling. Those who fought in second World War many also fought in Korea are now in their 70s or beyond. The average Korean veteran is of my generation. In fact, I'm a Korean veteran, although I saw no combat. I've always boasted that I spent the war in Monterey, Calif. While I was on guard, not one inch of the city fell into the hands of the North Koreans.

Truth be told, the war ended a few months after I enlisted. Anyone under 35 probably doesn't remember the draft. Today's voluntary American military is relatively new. Those who remember Vietnam remember the draft.

When Uncle Sam called able-bodied American males, they stepped up to the plate. It was assumed that they had an obligation to serve their country, unless, of course, a deferment could be arranged. When my number was about to come up, I joined the Navy. What the draft meant to the lives of young people earlier in the century is something today's youth probably can't grasp.

World War II is the only 20th century war in which the country faced a real threat. The others were fought on foreign soil; the American homeland was never in danger. WWII was another story. Had we not prevailed in the Pacific and in Europe, America would have been invaded from both coasts. It's likely that we would have lost.

This is why these vets deserve special praise while they are still around to hear it. Every American owes the aging warriors from WWII a big thanks!

Who are these men and women who fought and died in this war fought more than 50 years ago? They came of age in the depths of the Great Depression. Before they could begin whatever personal lives they may have forged under the circumstances, they were called on to fight and die in Europe and the Pacific.

Facing better prepared forces, they went toe-to-toe with them, and more than held their own until the American industrial machine could churn out the necessary weapons of war to get the job done. G.I. Joe ground it out in Europe and countless islands in the Pacific.

When I was growing up, my heroes were war heroes. I more or less worshiped them all, but my special heroes were various uncles who were in the thick of things in terrible battles against Germany and Japan. All but one of these uncles has passed away, but deep in my heart, they are still my heroes. I wonder: who are the heroes of today's kids?

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)[[In-content Ad]]

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