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Veterans highlight value of holiday

November 10, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

To understand why it is important to observe and respect the annual Veterans Day holiday, "all you have to do is look at the vets, from 20 years old to 90 years old," according to career serviceman Casey Jones.

Several Hagerstown residents who served in the U.S. military regard Tuesday's holiday as one of the most important in the country, even if they believe many others do not share in the opinion.

"Without vets, we wouldn't have a country," said Jay Mills, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War. "We'd all be speaking German."

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Mills said he believes schools should work more closely with local war veterans, especially ones who served in World War II, because it would enhance the learning experience for school-aged children.

"They don't teach enough of it," Mills said. "They should have vets (from World War II) go into their schools and talk to the kids before they're all gone."

Norman Pearman, who served in the Navy from 1953 to 1956, said Veterans Day is important because those who have fought for the United States have done so for the key objective of the country - freedom.

"If it wasn't for us, they wouldn't have freedom," he said. "We'd be like a lot of other countries."

Joe Forsythe, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post located at 70 E. Washington St., echoed the sentiment.

Forsythe also said honoring those who served should be more than an annual occurrence.

"It's once a year, but they should be celebrating it every day," said Forsythe, who served in the Army's infantry in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. "Without veterans, you wouldn't be able to drive your car, walk down the streets - you wouldn't be free."

Keith Schelo, who served in the Army and was stationed in Korea during part of the Vietnam War, said he still is in contact with at least one of the people he enlisted with in the late 1960s.

"For the past 15 years, we (Schelo and friends) always take that day off," Schelo said. "It's a good day to just get together and reminisce."

Schelo said people should remember that those who served in the Vietnam War, and wars before it, did so with pride and did not resent the fact that they had to.

Nov. 11 was chosen as the annual day for the national holiday because it was on that day in 1918 that the hostilities of World War I officially ceased. In 1926, Congress decided to honor that war's veterans by declaring a national holiday called Armistice Day. In June 1954, following World War II and the Korean War, Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

During the mid-1970s, the holiday was observed on the fourth Monday in October. The observance was changed back to Nov. 11 in 1978.

Several veterans who spent part of their afternoon Sunday at the local VFW post and Washington County AMVETS Post 10 at 770 Frederick St. said they don't believe people observe and respect the holiday enough.

"People don't look at Veterans Day the way it used to be looked at," said Jones, who began with the Air Force in 1969 and served during American military involvement in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. "Companies and people don't even take it off anymore."

Earl Babington, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War, said many people do not understand the sacrifices soldiers had to make for the people at home.

"I don't think people who haven't served can appreciate what we've done - they don't understand the facets of military life," Babington said.

Still, some believe those around them continue to honor veterans as much as possible.

"I think people do," Pearman said. "People have always treated me respectfully. They recognize you (for serving)."

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