Honoring our veterans

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2005

During World War II, Ray Nelms spent a year in New Guinea. He served on Luzon, an island in the Philippines. In the Korean War, the Suffolkian did even more time in the military.

Not because he enjoyed it. Not even because he wanted to. Because it was the only thing to do.

“The era that I came from doesn’t expect a lot of thanks,” he said Friday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2582 Veterans’ Day event at the Cedar Hill Cemetery. “We knew what we had to do. A lot of people think that freedom is free. When life gets too good, people don’t know what it’s like to be bad.”

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Many veterans do, said guest speaker Rep. Randy Forbes, a member of the Armed Services committee.

“I can’t put it into words, the sense of pride that veterans have for their country,” Forbes said. “Because of the price they pay and the excellence they have done, we say ‘thank you.’

“There are many things that people take for granted, and one of the things every veteran here knows is that freedom is not, and never will be, free. The best thing we can do is to look them in the eye and say ‘thank you.’”

“It’s been a great honor to serve on the Armed Services committee,” Forbes said afterward. “We make sure veterans get the thanks they deserve for the services they gave.”

It wasn’t always like that, said Vietnam veteran Al White.

“When I came back, if you were wearing a military uniform, people looked at you in disgust. About 10 years later, things started changing.

“I think the Gulf War and (President Ronald) Reagan bringing the (Berlin) wall down changed people’s attitude. It changed because people became more informed. It was more politics back then.”

As a nearby flag was lowered to half staff, and ‘Taps’ was played on a bugle, veterans in the crowd removed their hats and raised their hands in salute.

“It’s always important for me to come out here and realize that I was a part of history,” said Charles Abernathy, a former merchant marine and Army veteran. “I didn’t win World War II by myself, but I did what I had to do. That’s what all the veterans say n that we did what we had to do.”