Sunday, April 20, 2014
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GUEST COLUMN • Mark Magnan| Veterans Month

I was on vacation last week. I didn’t get a chance to complete this story before the deadline for last week’s paper. However, even though the actual event is in the past, the experience will last for some time. I was in a small town enjoying some quiet time. I was talked into going to a Veterans Day program at the local high school. In a way I wanted to see the presentation honoring the Veterans, but I felt a bit out of place.
I am not from this small town, but have some connections so I do feel a bit more at home there. I did serve in the military, in the Air Force. It was nothing exciting, relative peace time with not much chance of ever leaving my station and traveling to other areas of the world. I did my job and looked forward to the day when I received my honorable discharge and could go about my life without having to get up and put on the same color clothes each day.
This is probably why I don’t feel comfortable when I am at an event that honors Veterans and I get included. I didn’t experience the trials of war, or had the hardships of many service members, especially the WWII Vets.


During the veterans program, the school passed out a certificate honoring each veteran in attendance. On the page were the typical words that make up such items. But along the main statement were the words “willingness to sacrifice”, so that got me to thinking. I perhaps did share something along with the other generation that was present that day. We obviously all made it back alive and worked at another job or career. I knew at least one vet, he was sitting next to me, I had heard his stories. Perhaps it was just the “willingness” that we all shared as young men and women that created the bond as veterans.
My job in the Air Force was to take care of a jet, make sure it was ready and safe to fly. I had to look the pilot in the eye before he left knowing that I was partially responsible for his flight. While the plane was in the air he became a shield that protected my country and my family. I took my job seriously and enjoyed it. There were the days when the weather wasn’t great, but I never had anyone shooting at me. I guess I was a cog in the process.
Back to the school event. There were a couple of videos and slide shows, about the military in the past, and once again I felt a bit out of place. But I then realized that this was the reason that I joined, because these brave young men, actually boys, had gone before me and were willing to sacrifice a lot for my generation. Mixed in the program was a speach from a student of the school.  She had lost an older brother in the war a few years back. This was an extremely hard thing to sit through. She handled her talk well, but listening to her emotions brought up a lot in me. The school choir sang several songs, including the Star Spangled Banner. They were exceptional, and gave these traditional songs a lot of life. Several speakers from the school gave history of the day and other speeches.
At the end of the program the high school principal released all the students in groups by class. The last group was the senior class. He instructed them to come by and shake hands with at least one vet before they returned to class. The entire class lined up and went down the row shaking hands with each one of us, thanking us. Each student seemed quite genuine, a few went further and offered more of a greeting as they went along. I saw some “willingness” in the faces of those young men and women. Perhaps that is what we really need now, the “willingness” to do for our country. The military gets a lot of respect but I believe they deserve more. We also need to make it worthwhile for our young people to take part in the service to our country. Sometimes the small jobs really add up. Then some day they will be sitting in an auditorium being honored for their contribution to our country. I would like to offer my thanks and sincere appreciation to the Muleshoe High School. You made my Veterans Day quite special.