Today I am making plans to travel to the Yakima Valley to attend a rededication ceremony at the Sunnyside Memorial Cemetery on November 11, 2005 for the placement of my father's name on a plaque for Veterans. My dad served in the United States Army during World War II.
I have really encouraged my three grown children and two little grandchildren to attend this presentation also. My life is busy with work and volunteer work. My children's lives are full of responsibilities and commitments. The report on the weather on the pass is starting to suggest snow. It could be a rather challenging trip over the North Cascades.
My husband and I had planned a trip to Hawaii the second week of November but luckily I had not got the tickets when the letter came regarding the addition to the memorial finally would be dedicated.
I just knew I had to be there in person to see this small ceremony. So we changed our plans. And gee...isn't a holiday from school and work supposed to make Veterans Day a fun day filled with fun things that satisfy and revitalize our own needs? After all the new philosophy of: "it's all about me"... must apply.
When we stop and recognize Veterans Day, we realize it is the foundation of what built the opportunity for generations to come to even experience the new philosophy.
My dad, like most vets, probably wasn't very excited about leaving all his familiar surroundings and going off to foreign countries to do the work of war. He was born and raised in a small town of less than 500 population in Montana. He enlisted because he wanted to go off with all his other friends from Montana and they all knew it was just a matter of time until they all would be drafted - single, young men ripe for the pickings.
I do not remember him talking much about his service time. But, of course, being a baby boomer and a kid, I really wasn't very interested in listening to any of it anyway.
I remember during Vietnam talking about R and R. My dad said when he went oversees he did not come back for five and a half years. I remember him talking about his long boat ride to the African shores and saying that it was one of the worst experiences of his life. Everyone was sick by the time they reached their destination. I remember him telling me it was a chance for him to see all parts of the world...Africa, Italy, France.
I remember from time to time small recurrences of the after affects of malaria, but it is only today that I understand the full impact of what that did to him. He never made a big deal about it.
I used to marvel how he could fall asleep in a room full of noise, and recall he once said to me "in the war if you did not learn to sleep with lots of noise and bombs falling and shots around you, you never slept!"
As a kid I just did not get it.
What I did get was that when I was old enough to vote, I registered. I have voted in every election since, and not just in the major elections but the little local issues and the school bond issues and on and on. I took that issue very seriously, and it came from my parents.
What I did get was, when it was popular to protest the War in Vietnam, I honored the troops.
What I did get was that, when I was in my early thirties and traveled to Puerto Rico and looked over the village of hundreds of people living in cardboard boxes, I was blessed to be an American citizen!
What I did get was that, when you pledge your allegiance to the United States of America at basketball games and school assemblies, it means something!
That takes me full circle to my trip to the Valley this week.
It is important for me, my children and their children to stop for a few moments during the day and recognize the importance of the tremendous sacrifice that men and women in uniform have made in the past and are doing today to continue our basic freedoms that each of us, to some degree, take for granted. We can never afford to do that, regardless of how we stand about our beliefs on war.
Patrick Henry once said: "The price of liberty is constant vigilance."
He was right years ago and he is right today.
Each of us can serve each day by participating in this great country of ours. Take voting seriously. Participate in our communities. Value the educational opportunities for all young people. Volunteer!
As to my dad - he is just symbolic of all veterans throughout time doing what he thought he should do at a particular time in history.
And because of these average men and women who came from all walks of life who did extraordinary things and simply did not make a big deal about it-I enjoy the beautiful free life of being an American!
My dad's generation has been labeled as the "Greatest Generation". For me this private man was simply the best!
Leslie Kae Hamada resides in Covington and is a 1965 graduate of Sunnyside High School, whose father, Kenneth Thompson, resided in Sunnyside for 30 years and managed Sunnyside Dodge Chrysler in which he had a partnership.