Veteran’s Corner

By Ryan Armagost

The Surveyor

This month we celebrate Memorial Day by mourning and honoring those who have lost their lives to protect our freedom. Many people take this opportunity to thank a veteran for their service. This is appreciated, but it is taken with a bitter feeling by most veterans. Living veterans are also taking this day to honor and remember their fallen comrades. This is a day veterans reflect on the lives and losses of brothers and sisters in arms who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday that is sometimes clouded by the idea of getting out to grill and spend time at the lake. It is also a commercial day for retailers to advertise sales and discounts for a weekend that has nothing to do with consumers spending money. I hope Americans see past the promoted ideology of Memorial Day, as well as the confusion between Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. I’m not saying people should pass up a good sale at their local retailer or miss a chance to get out and grill at the lake. I’m simply saying there should be adequate time made for remembering and honoring those lives lost to preserve freedom of our country and oppressed people throughout the world. It is also encouraged to teach and model that remembrance of heroes to our youth.

This is a day and age where heroes are on the movie screen or the football field. Too many people choose heroes because of their ability to entertain or their athletic skills. Memorial Day should be a day for Americans to learn about the heroes of our history who have fought and died on the battlefield. There are many epic stories of American heroes who have made history by their sole actions in battle. The bravery and perseverance of those who have fought and died should not be expected by their choice to serve, nor should it be overlooked.  Our hometown heroes have plenty for our community to learn about and honor. Spc. Gabe Conde died heroically in Afghanistan while in a firefight with Taliban. He was awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” device for the valor in his actions. Staff Sgt. Justin Bauer died heroically in Iraq when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle while on a patrol through Baghdad.

This month also marks the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The veterans who served in Vietnam were all coming home to a country that did not welcome them in any acceptable fashion. This is a month I encourage every American to seek out a Vietnam veteran and thank them for their service. I also encourage you to tell them, “Welcome home.” They will know what it means, I assure you. These heroes not only had to return home to a hatred for their actions or presumed actions overseas, but also had no real care or follow-up from the VA or mental-health specialists. Many of these veterans turned to substance abuse and self-medication, which ultimately led to an early death. Others have fought the battle inside known as post-traumatic stress disorder ever since. They have held their stories inside, because no one would listen or understand their struggles and memories. This is where veterans get together in organizations like VFW, American Legion, PAMVET, etc.  We can all relate our stories and make each other more comfortable with sharing and opening up the issues that have been held inside.

I have been humbled by the outpouring of support and gratitude for my service by citizens and fellow veterans.  I volunteered for my 22 years of service and my overseas service. I had a choice not to deploy to Iraq on both occasions. Not all veterans had that choice or any other option. Veterans of wars before me are the heroes who deserve the gratitude and support they didn’t receive in their return home. All in all, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who were drafted into a war for which they didn’t volunteer. Those heroes of past wars deserve that from all of us, no matter the time or place.

I ask everyone out there to keep an eye out for those older veterans who can only now wear insignia for wars in which they served long ago. I also welcome everyone to attend the Memorial Day ceremony at Berthoud Cemetery on May 27 at 9 a.m. This is hosted by Berthoud VFW and Berthoud American Legion. After that there is a flag-raising ceremony at the Carter Lake administration office at the marina. That begins at 11 a.m.  We will be at both and hope to see you there to honor our fallen heroes.

Column for the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor – by Ryan Armagost

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