Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Although hard to believe, I recently spent another Veterans Day here in Washington D.C. in support of our Homeland Security mission.
Before long, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year Holiday will be memory. It is a time to reflect upon where we have been, what we are doing and how far we have to go.
Much has changed since last year. Much has not. We were a nation at war then. We remain at war now. The more things change -- the more they don't.
Last year, I tried to explain the feelings associated with serving in uniform during the Veterans Day events during wartime.
This year, it means even more. Even though I was unable to take part in any of the formal activities this year because of duty, it was a special gift to be "here" honoring those that sacrificed on our behalf.
In 2003, the reflecting pool was empty. The World War II memorial was being built. And Iraq was becoming a page 12 story.
Since then, the pool was filled, the World War II memorial was dedicated and we began a major offensive for the soul of the Iraqi people in the heart of enemy territory.
At this moment, the United States of America is engaged in more battlefields across the globe than at any time in my 34 years.
The need for commitment and sacrifice has never been more visible. And despite significant challenges, the military is holding its own against our enemies.
Military law and conventional prudence requires of me a certain level of subtlety regarding public comments on the war, the military and subjects associated with its prosecution. These standards I will uphold.
I am not constrained, however, from asking the people of Marion and Polk County for assistance. This year, honor the fallen by honoring the living. Find ways to support our troops serving in harm's way.
Holidays are anything but joyous for those deployed. They're even worse for those they left behind. This season will be a difficult time. But we can make it better.
Take this opportunity to work through your church, family, friends, school and social networks to reach out to your neighbors -- to the families of the active duty, reserve, and guard members serving abroad.
Troops in the field always appreciate care packages, letters and prayers. But they are far more concerned about their families than themselves. We should find ways to support both.
If you know someone serving, take the initiative and find a way to do something for them. If you don't, call the Oregon National Guard (503-584-3980) and ask for the statewide family support coordinator (extension 3543).
This holiday season, make a decision to honor the defenders of freedom. Consider the sacrifices made in the past; make a difference in the present.
(Former Monmouth Mayor Paul Evans is a captain in the Air National Guard.)