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Editorial: Don’t let pandemic stop you from honoring veterans 

What do you say to Harold Frank of Cornatzer, the Davie man who went through hell in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II?

What do you say to Craig Hanes, the Smith Grove man who went through his own kind of hell floating aimlessly on an overcrowded raft in the Pacific Ocean after his ship was hit by a torpedo during World War II?

Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough. Every year on Veterans Day, which falls next Wednesday, we would proudly attend local ceremonies which these two men attended. It was an honor to shake their hands. It was an even bigger honor that they both called me a friend.

With ceremonies going virtual this year, those handshakes won’t happen. But it shouldn’t stop us from thanking them and all other veterans. We don’t have to agree with all of the wars and conflicts our country gets into, but we damn sure should agree that all of the men and women who bravely put on a uniform of the United States Military are treated with respect.

Here are some ways you can help.

If you personally know a veteran, call them, write them, send them an email. Ask them about their time in the military, most will gladly re-tell a story — usually a very interesting story. Ask where they served, where they were stationed and what tasks they performed.

Don’t know a veteran? Write a thank you card, or cards, and drop them off at a VA center or local veterans service office.

Go to church? Make sure all of the veteran graves in that church’s cemetery have a small American flag flying on Veterans Day.

Check with those veterans service offices and VA hospitals, they will have ideas on how you can volunteer — things such as driving a disabled veterans to the doctor, doing yard work, or simply running errands.

Find a reputable cause that supports veterans, and make a donation. Many of our local World War II veterans went on “honor flights” to see their monument in Washington, D.C. because grateful Americans donated.

Display the American Flag proudly and correctly. Be sure to look up flag etiquette so you are properly honoring our country and our veterans.
Read the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCreae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Find a book or website that tells something you don’t know about our military personnel and the sacrifices they made for us. Read it. Learn it. Pass the information along to someone who is younger.

And if you do see a veteran on this Veterans Day — or any other day for that matter — at the very least, thank them for their service. Give them a fist bump or elbow bump or handshake, whatever you are comfortable doing. Just let them know you care for them, and you appreciate their willingness to do what it takes to keep our country free.

If you really want to thank a veteran, be the kind of American who is worth fighting for. Think about that one for a minute. It has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with race. It has nothing to do with religion. Actually, it has something to do with all three of those things. In America, because of our veterans, we are free to vote for whomever we want. In America, because of our veterans, the white man and the Black man — and all of those in between — have the opportunity to succeed. And in America, because of our veterans, we are free to worship the God of our choice.

“America with her soldiers would be like God without his angels.” — Claudia Pemberton

Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise Record.