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Letters to the Editor

November 11, 1998

Life-long memories

To the editor:

Our country honors its heroes in many different ways. Heroes are honored with money, medals, awards, monuments, parades, celebrations and days named after them. One such group of heroes is our veterans, those people who served in the armed forces and defended us with their lives. One way we honor these veterans is that we have a day named for them, which we celebrate on November 11.

A student at Boonsboro Middle School interviewed a local veteran on his war experiences.

Herb Guenther, the local veteran, shares his memories of his war experience. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he took basic training at Fort Leonard, in Missouri.

From there, Guenther was put on a ship for 23 days and sent to Korea, where he worked as a road repair man. He served in the military for two years and spent most of his time based in Korea.

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Guenther says that his civilian life was very different from his military life. "Everything was planned out for us," he remembers, "We were told exactly what to wear, even down to what kind of underwear!"

Guenther has his own farm so he was used to telling everyone else what to do, but when he went into the army he was the one being told what to do by everyone else. He was always obeying orders. As a farmer, he could sleep and eat when ever he wanted to. In the military he would always get up when he was told and eat when he was told to. He also says that they were very strict about the soldiers expressing their personal opinion. They could never disagree with a higher rank.

Herb says that he recalls many outstanding memories from his experiences, but there is one that will always stand out in his mind. As soldiers in a war they were put into small groups of about 10. They all stayed in the same tent. They slept together, ate together, did everything together. "They were like family," Herb said. "But you had no privacy at all, and if you couldn't get along with one of them, you were in big trouble."

Herb said that there are many benefits of being in the service. He said that he learned a lot about how to get along with others. Everything he did, he needed to work with other people in order to get it done. Herb said that he got to go to many different places and meet a lot of different people. "All different races and religions," Herb recalls. He also learned to obey orders and always do what he was told. "You go where your country tells you to," he says.

Herb Guenther was drafted into the army for two years. He feels that it is not a good idea to make joining the military mandatory. He is very opposed to it. He thinks that we do need an army, but not too big, and all volunteer. "In the time of war it is OK to draft some people when they are needed, but I wouldn't want to see all Americans joining the army when they are 18 because they are being forced to," Herb says.

Although he does not feel serving in the army should be mandatory unless it is clearly needed, for him it was a learning experience and provided life-long memories.

Sarah Simmons

Boonsboro Middle School

To the editor:

What is a vet?

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: A missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: A pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg, or perhaps another sort of inner steel - the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel. He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She, or he, is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang. He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back at all.

He is the Quantico drill instructor that has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs. He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand. He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

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