Shnay: Veterans Day has special significance in Park Forest
By Jerry Shnay Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org October 31, 2013 10:26AM
Updated: December 4, 2013 6:12AM
The other day, while wheeling a cart down an aisle of a grocery store, I glanced at the long row of cheery birthday and anniversary cards stacked in neat rows.
Personally, and to the bewilderment of Madame, I can do without these tidy mementos sent on “special occasions.” Most smack more of sentimentality than sentiment, and those “funny” cards seem more silly than witty.
This time, however, the eye was struck by a small row of cards tucked into a low corner of the display case.
Instead of cakes, hearts, firecrackers and flowers, each bore a picture of the American flag on the cover, and each was separated into proper order — Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy.
Inside each card was an inscribed “thank you for your service” message. They were all arranged under a little sign that read “Veterans Day.”
Despite the sameness of the cards, these little recognitions of service to our country took on an importance I had not thought of until now. That they were overlooked in years past by someone in too much of a hurry to get the shopping done makes my notice now more significant.
Our national holidays reflect our country’s history. We celebrate the founding of our country on the Fourth of July.
We pay tribute to our presidents, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the U.S. labor movement.
But our debt to our armed forces is an obligation commemorated twice each year. On Memorial Day, we honor those Americans who died in military service, and on Veterans Day, we are reminded of all those who helped defend our nation and preserve our freedom.
This Wednesday, Park Forest will commemorate Veterans Day in a special program at 6:30 p.m. at the village hall.
It is only proper that the community, built in large measure to provide housing for returning World War II veterans, should hold such an event. It was the hopes and dreams of those returning from that great service that helped shape Park Forest for generations to come.
Although a fabled few were honored with parades and cheering, the vast majority of those courageous members of the “greatest generation” returned to what they expected would be a better world. The village had its small share of heroes.
The late Carl Dalke earned a chestful of medals, including awards from the government of Belgium and The Netherlands. Decked out in his Eisenhower jacket with 20 decorations pinned to its front, he was a fixture at every Memorial Day observance.
Ed Fizer, who is still with us, was a member of the famed Montford Point Marines and fought the battle against racial prejudice every day while serving his country.
Somehow, the better world has not yet arrived. Since 1945, American soldiers have fought and died in more than a dozen different countries from Panama to Afghanistan.
In our youth, the veterans of World War I numbered in the millions. None are alive today.
Of the more than 16 million men and women who fought for the United States in the Second World War, little more than 1 million remain. For many, age has robbed them of friends and family, and in some cases dementia has taken their mind and some of their dignity.
As part of the Park Forest event, the village has asked for donations of toiletries that will be sent to the Illinois Veterans Home in Manteno.
Although the thought of sending a Veterans Day card to someone is nice, I will say thanks in a different way this year.
I’ll stock up on soap, shampoo, toothpaste, combs, brushes and the other items that make life a little easier to manage.
For what these veterans did for us, this is the least we can do for them.