Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Observing Veterans Day every day

November 9, 2013 

Is there a better place in the world to observe Veterans Day than Columbus, Ga.?

No.

Sure, every community has parades and ceremonies, and ours is no exception. But no other place gives you as many opportunities to honor veterans of the past, present and future.

I'll never forget the crowds at Columbus Airport a couple of years ago when local members of the Greatest Generation returned from Honor Flight trips to Washington, D.C.

These men, many of them in their 90s and some in wheelchairs or toting oxygen tanks, returned from a day of remembering what it was like to be young and afraid and doing something incredibly important.

When they entered the terminal, they were greeted by marching bands and a huge, screaming crowd and teary hugs from loved ones. It was the heroes welcome all of them deserved but many of them had never received.

Their ranks grow smaller every year.

They are replaced by new heroes.

A couple of months ago, I was on the second floor of our building with an infantry colonel. We were heading for the stairs, and I asked him if he'd rather take the elevator. He'd just had back surgery, but of course he opted for the stairs.

He apologized for taking so long. He had a rod in his back and reconstructed knees, hips and a shoulder.

I asked him if that was a result of more than 30 years of jumps as an airborne ranger. Yeah, he said, that and driving over a couple of mines in Iraq.

I thanked him for his service, and I really meant it. People thank me sometimes for my four years of service in the Army, most of which I spent inventorying the supply of pilsner and rahmschnitzel in Germany. I appreciate it, but I don't feel like I deserve it. This colonel deserved it.

Around here, people thank soldiers regardless of their rank or experience.

Every week, new soldiers march on Fort Benning parade fields and sit at tables with their parents on Broadway sidewalks and stand on the RiverWalk snapping selfies with Chattahoochee whitewater as a backdrop.

We thank them for what they've decided to do, what they're going to do, and what may be done to them while they're doing it.

We have cookouts when our neighbors return from Iraq, Afghanistan or some place they can't tell us about. We pick up tabs for people we don't know in restaurants. Sometimes we find ourselves saying a prayer for kids in camouflage who look as young as

our children.

All around us, we see reminders of our freedom and the men and women who've made sacrifices to protect it.

Today, you can honor them at the Veteran's Day parade downtown at 10 a.m.

Or you can visit the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, which will be open all weekend and will also open Monday for Veterans Day.

You can walk the ramp of "The Last 100 Yards" and view the other exhibits.

I'd especially recommend the Hall of Valor, where you can read award citations for Medal of Honor winners.

However you observe it, you'll have plenty of reminders to do so.

Because around here, every day is Veterans Day.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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