Jack Simpson: The meaning of words



Many kind words were spoken to veterans on Veterans' Day. Among them were "thanks for your service." Those speaking the words were thankful for soldiers who helped secure freedom. Those to whom utterances like this were spoken found they brought back old memories.

I'm not trying to speak for all veterans, but for me, the words made me think of the day I answered my country's call to duty. I was classified 1-A for the draft and wished to move on with my life. Waiting did not appeal to me, so I volunteered for the U.S. Army. I signed up. Put my life on the line, and in combat learned securing freedom costs a very high price. Even today we have brave men and women stationed around the world fighting to preserve hard-won freedom.

I remember how it was in the 1940s when so many young people made the same decision I did. We left home, many for the first time, to sail off to foreign lands to fight our enemies. Yes, some were drafted; some volunteered. Some young people were poor and needed benefits that the services provided. Others were just plain patriotic and truly wanted to serve their country. The point is, Americans answered the nation's call regardless of motivation.

We can only now imagine what our departure must have meant to loved ones left behind. It must have been very stressful for my mother to have her son in the middle of the European conflict. She must have lived in fear daily that a knock would come to her door and a soldier in full dress uniform would tell her of a son lost in service of his country.

"Thanks for your service." Yes, the U.S. government expressed this to those of us lucky enough to return safely home after the war ended. We were offered the G.I. Bill and those who took advantage earned college degrees enabling them to find civilian jobs with opportunities to make new contributions to society.

This program enabled many veterans to make a successful transition from soldiers to teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. They left home as young, inexperienced, not-dry-behind-the-ears youngsters. In the service, they learned responsibility, perseverance, survival and integrity. These qualities they applied to earning degrees and making new careers for themselves in civilian life. Veterans who took advantage of the G.I. Bill showed everyone how to apply themselves and learn to be productive in a team environment.

"Thanks for your service" -- still a pleasure to hear those words and remember what they meant to some old soldiers. These words were music to the ears and having a special day set aside for recognition of personal sacrifices made to protect freedom is much appreciated. Thanks to all who remembered. Thanks to all who served.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.