Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

June 2, 2014

Where do we find such men and women?

ASHLAND — The tiny American flags fluttered in the breeze of a beautiful day. The hillside cemetery seemed to be covered with them like spring flowers.

 Once again, I was awestruck by the sight of so many red, white and blue symbols of personal courage and patriotism.

 Not all of them marked the grave of someone killed in combat, but each one did mark the final resting place of someone who was willing to die for their country … my country.

 I whispered a silent prayer of thanks to those who had planted the little flags in memory of departed comrades and loved ones.

 Later, at a Memorial Day Parade, I noticed with sadness that the number of World War II veterans grows smaller each year.

 We are losing hundreds of them each day. Most have reached or are very close to their 90s.

 Men who shouldered a rifle now carry a cane. Men who drove trucks, landing craft and tanks now steer a two-wheeled walker.

 Men who flew in airplanes and sailed in ships now ride in wheelchairs.

 Men who stood ramrod straight now struggle to stand fully upright. Men who could see like an eagle now are lucky to see at all.

 Women who nursed the wounds of war now receive nursing care. Women who fed the warriors now struggle to feed themselves.

 The World War II vets are not much older than those who fought in Korea. They are followed by those who went to Vietnam … to the Gulf War … to Iraq and Afghanistan.

 One might ask where we find those gallant men and women who wear our nation’s military uniforms.

 We find them right here at home in what President Ronald Reagan so aptly described as “the freest society man has ever known.”

 They don’t serve for money or medals. They do so to defend the birthright of freedom we all share as Americans.

KEITH KAPPES is editor of The Morehead News, Journal-Enquirer and Olive Hill Times. Reach him at kkappes@cnhi.com

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