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Remembering our veterans

November 09, 2009|By LLOYD "PETE" WATERS

It was in the 11th hour, on the 11th day of November, at 11 a.m. in 1918 that a truce was agreed upon to cease all fighting and to bring an end to World War I. An estimated 16 million dead and 21 million wounded resulted from this world conflict.

Some days later, this truce became known as Armistice Day. Later, it was changed to Veterans Day, and a national holiday.

On Nov. 11, we should take a moment to acknowledge our veterans and their many sacrifices and contributions to preserve our way of life.

As I travel around this nation, I rejoice when I notice that many state highways are named in honor of our veterans. They remember.

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As I visit our capital and look at the monuments built to honor our war heroes, I am reminded of the veterans' bravery for all to see. They remember.

After reading "Flags of Our Fathers" and the story of the five Marines and one Navy medic who raised our flag on Iwo Jima, I am humbled by their story. John Bradley, the Navy medic in the famous picture, once commented that "the real heroes of Iwo Jima were the ones who didn't come back."

When I travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., I always enjoy taking in a show at the Alabama Theatre. At the end of every show, the emcee always takes a moment to thank the military veterans for their service and sacrifices in preserving the freedoms of our country. They remember.

This year was no different, and at the conclusion of the show, he asked anyone who ever served in the military to stand and be recognized. As I looked around the auditorium, there were many people proudly standing.

Families, friends and even the entertainers paused in awe to look at the group of veterans standing before them.

As I reflect on my own military experiences, I look back to a day of my youth and think on those years long gone and remember some of my childhood buddies.

Orville Lee Knight was one of my best friends. We went to school together, played baseball and other sports, and always had a good deal of fun while growing up in the close-knit community of Dargan.

It was the fall of 1968, and I still remember vividly my last conversation with him on the corner of Dargan School Road just above his parents' home as he was preparing to leave a wife and newborn daughter on his way to Vietnam.

We talked about the dangers of war; we talked about the good times growing up in Dargan; we talked about the importance of family and friends.

I told him to be safe and I would see him when he got back.

His life and future were laid out before him.

It was the last time I saw him alive.

In April 1969, while I was stationed at Fort Lee, Va., I received a knock on my apartment door and a phone call from home. Orville Lee was killed in Vietnam.

I was very saddened by the news. My memories still remain and, even today, on occasion, I find time to visit Orville Lee's grave in the Keedysville cemetery.

His mom still lives in the little town of Dargan in the same house of her son's youth.

War is never a pleasant memory.

Dave Stouts was another Dargan kid who lived just down the road from my childhood home. We, too, spent a lot of time together and got into our share of mischief. He was a good friend.

As a Marine, Dave also made it to Vietnam, and he was fortunate to come back, but like so many who came back, he returned with some unfortunate memories related to war.

Dave was never the same kid when he came home.

Too many issues and unresolved matters brought back from across the pond took their toll on Dave.

At the age of 31, Dave drowned in the Potomac River, just a short distance from Dargan.

As I pause to remember Orville Lee and Dave on this Veterans Day, I will say a short prayer for both of them and all of our veterans. They deserve to be remembered.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail

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