Veterans Day 2015: One Never Runs Out of Names
So much has been written about our veterans on Their Day — thanking, honoring, mourning them — that sometimes it is difficult to come up with new words, fresh words, adequate words to express our immense gratitude, respect and, for the fallen, our grief.
But, for sure, one never runs out of names: The names of our friends and loved ones still living or departed who have worn our country’s uniform and have given it all for us.
There are 58,195 names engraved on the Vietnam Wall Memorial alone.
One day, all names for all wars will be engraved somewhere. For now, rest assured that every one of those names is engraved in the hearts and minds of the surviving sons and daughters, wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, grandparents, their descendants…
This Veterans Day, I will just list a few names of some good friends, some still with us, one “hanging in there,” and some no longer with us and thank them — I know you will do the same.
But first, some words from our President’s Veterans Day proclamation, because in it he mentions some of the veterans who we sometimes forget to include in our thoughts.
Those who are presently serving our country, still on active duty and their families:
The brave men and women of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard demonstrate a resolute spirit and unmatched selflessness… On Veterans Day, we reflect on the immeasurable burdens borne by so few in the name of so many, and we rededicate ourselves to supporting those who have worn America’s uniform and the families who stand alongside them.
Our homeless veterans:
Just as every veteran deserves the support and benefits they have earned, those who have given everything to defend our homeland deserve a place of their own to call home.
Our wounded and troubled veterans, those suffering from the visible and invisible wounds of war and those who — having survived the battle for their life — come home and cannot survive the battle of their life.
No one who fights for our country should have to fight for the care they deserve. Earlier this year, I was proud to sign the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which fills critical gaps in mental health care by raising awareness and taking steps to improve access to care for those suffering from the invisible wounds of war.
I would add to this those who have fallen on foreign fields in recent and distant wars and have not made it home yet. More than 1,600 of them remain unaccounted just from the Vietnam War.
These are some of the veterans I am proud and honored to have come to call my friends:
WASP Millie Dalrymple, who in 1942 answered our country’s call for women pilots to serve at home in order to free male pilots to fight the war overseas. Millie took her final flight in November 2012 at age 92.
Marine Lt. Col. Earl Charles “Charlie” Rodenberg who served his country with distinction for 24 years as a combat naval aviator, including in Vietnam and during Operation Desert Storm and who went on to earn the Air Medal with 25 “Strike/Flight” awards for heroism and meritorious service flying many helicopter rescue and attack-bomber combat missions. Our good friend and neighbor left us in February 2011. He was only 65.
My good friend “Jack” who loved the Texas wildflowers so much, who served his beloved city of Austin so well as Director of the Austin Park and Recreation Department and his country so meritoriously in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Jack was 82 when he left us in April 2014.
Just this April, another good friend and neighbor departed. Charles “Charlie” Monroe Heard had just celebrated his 90th birthday when he suddenly left us. Charlie served in the Pacific at the end of World War II.
U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Juanyta D. Ortiz (now Janie Johansen) who in December 1999, while flying over Kuwait in a C-130 in support of Operation Southern Watch when the aircraft accidentally impacted the ground and became airborne again suffering severe structural damage injuring dozens of passengers, several fatally, with complete disregard for her own safety used her aeromedical skills to help the injured passengers. Janie, now a grandmother, lives in Austin, Texas.
Finally, my dear friend, 95-year-old World War II veteran, B-17 bombardier, John Tschirhart, in frail health, but waiting for his story, “The French American” to be told on the big screen. That Veterans Day story is here.
To all of them, and to so many more, we love you and honor you on Your Day.
Lead image: Courtesy U.S. Air Force