Enumclaw’s Veterans of Foreign War Post 1949 recently celebrated local students and first responders during its Jan. 26 meeting.
The annual event honors students in middle and high school that participate in the Patriot Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests, respectively.
This year, VoD essay winner Natalie DeMarco also placed first in the state VFW’s essay competition, which means she will be traveling to D.C. to compete nationally in March for the opportunity to win up to $30,000 in college scholarship money.
Also honored by the VFW were Enumclaw officer Trevor Pourchot, dispatcher July Kenezuroff, and firefighter Ryan Rodenberg.
Finally, VFW member Elbert Reed (pictured) was honored as Veteran of the Year.
WHY THE VETERAN IS IMPORTANT
By Natalie DeMarco
The lisping voice emits from the tape recorder salvaged from a bygone era. The interviewer, a high school student from the 80s, asks questions of an obviously reticent aged man. One by one the questions elicit a story. A young man, in his 20’s, assigned to a Unit in WWII outside Manila. A troop of soldiers, as diverse in race and background, as they are in age. Their only commonalities; inexperience and optimism. His assignment—to protect them. As point man, he had the unenviable job of leading out, watching for enemy soldiers, and warning all those who followed in his footsteps. His voice falters as he describes the moment he yawned. A timely yawn which saved his life from the bullet that went through his cheek, but could not save the other friends who died that day. Moments pass before he can regain control of his deep emotions. He describes the guilt, the terror, and lingering desires, 40 years later, to dive deep into the bushes each time an airplane passes overhead. He chuckles softly when asked how others have reacted to the story. “It is one I do not share. This is a burden I carry alone.” When asked why he enlisted, and whether it was worth it, he doesn’t hesitate. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was the right thing to do. Freedom means everything.”
Like all the other Veterans who walk among us nameless and faceless…those who hand out little red flowers each Memorial Day…those who toast their buddies who will never share a drink again at the National Cemetery… this man embodies all the things that make a Veteran vital to our society. Selflessness. Integrity. Character.
In today’s self-centric world, Veterans understand there are things more important than personal interests. Willingness to sacrifice, work hard, and put everything on the line for a brighter future is the true definition of heroism. Franklin Roosevelt understood how important this was for a country’s success. “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” Veterans embody this sentiment. They fight for the freedoms and well-being of generations who will follow. Their examples of altruistic service leaves an important legacy many others have adopted. Clara Barton risked her life to support Civil War soldiers on the field, then founded the Red Cross to bring healing to countless others. Susan B. Anthony fought and advocated to give voice to legions who would come after. Every day American citizens quietly serve selflessly to contribute to communities, neighbors and country. This is the backbone of our America. This is a quality Veterans inspire in each of us.
Veterans understand that doing the right thing and being honest and accountable for how you live your life matters. We live in an age where everything is someone else’s fault. We spend far more time pointing fingers than solving problems. Veterans understand ownership, accountability and moral fortitude are critical to a healthy society. Nothing embodies standing for the freedoms, values, and choices of our country quite like laying your life down for it. Soldiers fight for Democrats and Republicans. Those who agree with them and those who disagree with them. Those who hate them and spit on them, and those who praise them. They fight for every American’s right to believe, speak, worship, vote, live, breathe and choose as they will. Veterans demonstrate what integrity, unity and purpose can do. It brings citizens together and forges indestructible bridges that move individuals, communities and countries forward.
Veterans remind us that moral excellence and strength of character are important. Martin Luther King said “we must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” A field of battle is the ultimate test of character. Together, unified, men and women collectively overcome. Veterans remind us that character is often built through adversity. In the trenches, we see it is possible to endure courageously, lift others and dig deep when life gets hard. Helen Keller counseled “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” The Veterans of our country are well acquainted with grief, pain and sacrifice, but they rise and inspire us to do the same.
The WWII Veteran whose voice is captured on the tape has passed, as have almost all his comrades. One by one, Veterans of our historical wars are taking up permanent residence in our National Cemeteries. While their roles defending and preserving the borders of our lands may be over, there is a far greater legacy they, and the Veterans who follow their footsteps, will leave our country. The Veterans’ collective display of selflessness, integrity and character remind us these are the essential qualities citizens need to embody to create an America worth fighting for.