It’s taken nearly 60 years. But now I get it.
I come from a family that doesn’t have a rich, military history.
I can’t name five members of my family — going back at least four generations — who served their nation in the military.
My niece’s husband, Dustin Edgell, is a member of the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield. That’s it. There may be a few more, but I don’t know them.
Thank you for your service, Dustin.
It’s no one’s fault there is not a recent military history among the Kent family. We weren’t abandoning America to run to Canada in protest of the Vietnam War.
It just never happened.
So for all my years, I truly didn’t get Memorial Day, or Independence Day or Veterans Day.
I knew the meaning behind all three, but those memorials and those feelings of loss and gratitude? They were for others. They were for those who personally knew those who served, and those who were injured, and those who died.
For the past three, maybe four years, I’ve put together the Galion Veterans Day tribute pages. The 2019 edition is in today’s paper and is by now online at www.galioninquirer.com. It is our way to say thank you to those from the Galion area who served their nation in the military.
The tribute was something I did, something I collected photos for, something I helped pull together.
But it was not really something I spent a lot of time thinking about.
I remember Don Diosi Sr., calling me years ago about the Veterans Memorial in Galion. I could tell by the tone of our phone conversations how much those meant to him, first the one at the Galion Municipal Building, and later the one at Heise Park.
He loved those people we honor with those memorials. He loved those who served and fought and died in service to their nation.
And I understood the pride in his voice.
But I really didn’t get it.
Chuck Christman, who spearheaded efforts to to fund and build a Crawford County Veterans Memorial is another person who never stops giving. The memorial is at the Crawford County Courthouse in Bucyrus. If you’ve not been there … you need to go.
And while I’m at it, visit the memorials in Galion, too.
Stop. Think. Say a prayer.
And say thank you, not only to those who died, but to all who served to allow us to live with the kind of freedom we too often take for granted today.
Christman is also a guiding force behind the Crawford County Veterans Hall of Fame, which next week will induct its 13th class. The 2019 class includes Roger Willis of Galion. It’s the 13th class of honorees. The program is at Bucyrus at 7 p.m. on Veterans Day.
I cook a meal each Wednesday at the Galion American Legion. I’ve been doing it more than a year. I spend several hours there each Wednesday. I’ve met a lot of great people. And I know the pride they have for their nation and their service.
It’s apparent in the way they carry themselves.
I’ve known and talked to Don Rinehart of Scarbrough Post 243 for years. From his umpiring days, to a previous career at the Galion Inquirer. He’s serious about the American Legion and what it represents.
In the past 18 months, I’ve gotten to know Ken Green and Mike Mateer at Scarbrough Post 243. They’ve shared stories about their time in the military.
The pride they feel about their service shows in their eyes as talk about their experiences. You can hear it in their voices.
There are other American Legion members I’ve gotten to know.
I’m proud to call them my friends.
I meet people each Wednesday when I serve dinner. They also have become friends.
Roger and Dorothy Haas are two of those friends. I know them as a couple who work hard, but have a lot of fun in the free time they have.
Roger is a veteran. In April, he was talked — by his friend Paul Wagner, a veteran of World War II — into taking part in an Honor Flight to Washington.
It was a whirlwind trip, starting early in the morning with a trip to Columbus, then a flight to Maryland, a bus ride to DC, visits to the military memorials, a bus ride back to Maryland and then the flight back to Columbus, where he was greeted friends and family who cheered his arrival and thanked him for his service.
Roger cried when he shared with me about his trip. As he and Dorothy shared photos on her phone, you could hear the pride and the passion in their voices. It meant the world to them both.
I think that’s when I finally got it.
Now I understand what Memorial Day, and Independence Day and Veterans Day mean to veterans … and their families.
Veterans are proud of their service, and they’re thrilled to be appreciated. They will never forget their comrades who served with them.
And we should never forget, either.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
But this old dog has learned a valuable lesson
Veterans matter. They always have. They always do. They always will.
Thank you for your service!