By Richard Gould
When I think of veterans, I think of the World War II veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy and gave it their all. I picture them dodging enemy fire and scaling the cliffs in order to achieve their objective of securing the beach. It seems surreal how so many of them did not make it back, but they are still honored in France for their sacrifices. What makes me sick to my stomach, however, is when people go and protest the funerals of those that gave everything they had.
The Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, is one of those groups that protest funerals of those service members that have fallen in combat. When I was attending Cowley County Community College, I remember the church members coming down to protest a funeral held at the college gym. The people there had their signs saying “God Hates You” and God Hates Fags.” That is not the way to spread your message, but to the church, that is what they are called to do. I remember the pictures of other people though, that were there protesting the church. The picture that stood out in my mind was a poster that someone held saying “God Loves Everyone.” As the day went on, the atmosphere was just depressing. The Patriot Guard was on duty to escort the body to and from the gym.
During my middle and high school years at Douglass High School, the school celebrated the veterans every year in a big way. Deena Glaves was the main person in charge of the event. She and some of the other teachers would invite veterans and other service members to the event to honor them for their commitment and the sacrifices they made or were making for this country. Each branch, including the coast guard, was there and marched down the gym with spotlights on them from above the crowd. All the lights were off in the gym and each branches’ theme was played as they marched. One thing that stuck out in my mind was when the instrumental director, Brett Martinez, played taps for those that have fallen and are not with us anymore.
After the ceremony was over, you could talk to the veterans about what they did and also look at the different displays brought by the Kansas Museum of Military History from Augusta. Veterans talked about what the different medals mean and if they were awarded those medals. Some veterans did not have a choice when it came to fighting.
My dad had two best friends that were twins. One of them was in college while the other one did not attend college. When the war in Vietnam started one of the brothers had to go and fight over there. His name was Richard and he is whom I named for since he was killed over there. My dad promised himself that if he ever had a son he would name him Richard and for that, I am proud of him. His name is on the wall in Washington D.C., which I plan to visit one of these days and find the person who I am named after. Not only do I plan on doing that, but after I am done with college I plan to enroll in the Air Force to become an officer.
The next time you see a veteran make sure you shake their hand and thank them for their sacrifice. If it wasn’t for them, you might not have the lifestyle you enjoy today or the freedom you have in the classroom.
Richard Gould is a senior majoring in business administration. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.