Updates from Upperclassmen: Don’t be afraid of talking to a veteran about their service

Published 8:00 pm Friday, November 18, 2022

Updates from Upperclassmen by Matthew Ramirez

Veterans Day is a day to honor all those who have served, both in the past and present, of all wars. The holiday began a year after World War I had ended, and it was known as Armistice Day. It was made in order to honor the soldiers of WWI. About 10 years after World War II, it became a day to honor and also to remember soldiers of all wars, past and present. Throughout our country’s history, we have been faced with many wars: the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and so on. Throughout each war, we have had brave men and women, willing to serve and die for this country. 

To gain a deeper understanding of why we celebrate Veterans Day, we have to understand what a veteran is and what they have done. To most people, a soldier is someone who is willing to fight and die for their country. For me personally, they are more than that. They are our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters, our grandparents, our friends. They are normal people — people we know, people who are among us, people who have decided to leave the comfort of their homes in order to protect the ones they love as well as defend their country and beliefs. These men and women are willing to sacrifice anything, including their lives. They have the strength and courage to face the enemy, and throughout history, they have fought over and over again. But in order to truly understand the meaning of Veterans Day, I believe that it is necessary to ask a veteran about their own thoughts on this national holiday. It is important to know what veterans have done in their own words.

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I interviewed a veteran from my church, who is known as Sgt. Temple. He is a Green Beret who served in Vietnam. I asked him what he thought about Veterans Day. He began by saying that he was not a big fan of Veterans Day as he believed that the holiday should be a day to honor and remember those who have fallen, and the term veteran should only be used for those who have seen combat. He continued by saying he had seen military personnel getting free breakfasts, lunches, etc, despite them never seeing combat. I then asked him about his experience in the military. He told me about how while on his base, he would sometimes have a glass of Jim Beam and a Cuban cigar that was smuggled onto the base with one of his friends. He also told me a bit about his experience in Vietnam. He said that there was a time where he was temporarily a second lieutenant, but this was because most of the officers were killed in action. He did not want to go into much detail, and he didn’t say much more than that, as he had seen enough blood and chaos, and he didn’t like talking about war stories. I then asked him what he would say to someone interested in joining the military. He jokingly said that if you want to see combat, now would be a good time due to the rising tension with Russia, China and North Korea, but if you don’t want to see combat, it would be best to stay home. When our conversation ended, he surprisingly thanked me, as he said not very many people were interested in asking about that stuff. Then, we shook hands and said goodbye. 

Talking with a combat veteran was a new experience for me. I’ll admit, I was intimidated at first. The thought of talking to a soldier was scary to me. But as we kept talking he was very friendly, he was willing to answer my questions and he was even happy that we had the opportunity to talk. He also told me if I had any more questions, to come up and ask him. In short, this was a great and memorable experience that I will not be forgetting anytime soon.

Furthermore, I would like to thank all veterans of each war, for serving our country, for all they’ve done, for all they have had to endure. Also, I would like to thank the sergeant for all he has done and all he has been through, as well as taking the time to talk with me and share his experiences. Sgt. Temple, if you are reading this, I hope I captured your sentiments. Thank you for your service, and God bless you.

Matthew Ramirez is a junior at Albert Lea High School.