I was shocked when I checked Military Times Honor the Fallen site last week. The fatalities just keep mounting. I'd been so busy finishing my book about our fallen heroes that I'd been unable to keep tabs on the numbers, but here's a list of our losses for 2012. Please ... take a moment to say a prayer for those families who have suffered the loss of a soldier.
Fatalities for 2012:
January - 26
February - 18
March - 19
April - 35
May - 41
June - 29
July - 42
August - 40
September - 19
October - 15 (through Oct. 22nd)
Total to date: 285 troops
Last weekend was spent getting the Veterans Day cards ready to ship out to our Veterans homes throughout the state. This year saw a sharp decline in the number of cards received - 1,900 versus 4,700 , but all were beautiful and greatly appreciated ... and I know the veterans receiving them will have a special day because of our District 308 students.
The lessons taught by having our young people create these cards is far superior to any civics book lesson. Teaching them to think about who veterans are, and why it's important to remember them prepares our young for their role as citizens in a democracy. We lead by example and that's what the teachers who participated in this project have done. They've taken the time to slow down, take an abstract lesson and turn it into a concrete series of thoughts and actions. You should be proud of your efforts.
Once again the cards were each unique. Once again I had time to read only a few. Once again they brought tears to my eyes. And, once again, I'm incredibly proud of our teachers and our students for their efforts. Thank you for taking time to remember. It is important for many reasons. When a friend asked why we have Veterans Day I actually couldn't remember the story until reminded: On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918, the armistice treaty was signed to end the war. I will have more on that in my next blog.
Also, I just returned home from the Chicago Armory for Stand Down Day. Almost 900 veterans were served today and I've never witnessed such organized chaos. As part of the Oswego Rotary Club, a number of us went to Chicago and were thrilled and humbled to help with this extraordinary event. When we help those who have served it is truly our finest hour as human beings. It is really something to see these veterans and the numerous groups of people who come to their aid; assisting them in preparing for winter. I met many wonderful people today, each with their own unique story and mission. Everyone who wasn't a Rotarian was truly impressed with the large show of Rotarian support for this remarkable event.
I was standing in line handing out socks. Really had it down to a science: white or black? Thermal or regular? Pretty soon ... toward the end it was simply. Hi. Here's a pair of socks. There were no more choices, but there were many white socks handed out. It was truly amazing to see the variety of items given to these men and women vets. They received a large nylong bag (giant actually). Eventually it would be filled as they filed along the tables set up with toiletry kits, colorful toothbrushes, T-shirts (that, might I say, I expertly folded ... even teaching our male helpers how to fold correctly), blankets, underware (thank God that wasn't my duty to hold up sizes 36 & 38 and ask which one!), pants, boots (sadly in very limited supply), sweatshirts and snack bags.
There were also medical services, haircuts, coats, hats, gloves and many vendors and service providers depending upon what each individual veteran might need. After receiving all of their "stuff", they were directed to the dining room for a hot meal. Every single vet smiled and said thank you. Some had big personalities, some were debilitated, some were quiet, but all were appreciative which was very humbling for me. After I thanked one man for his service, he responded by saying, "It's because of people like you that I served." Well, you all know me by now and I was teary eyed.
I have a list of several things I want to do next year for this event. First, I want to bring 900 packets of Veterans Day cards from our school kids to hand out to these men and women. Secondly, I want to find a way to get more new thermal socks for them. Thirdly, many more pairs of boots were needed. Many more! So... please make a mental note about this and mark it on your good deeds calendar for next year.
And lastly, take time to remember why we have always been called the greatest nation on earth. Let's each be a part of why that saying can still ring true.
As always.............live an inspired and patriotic life.