A salute to veterans

November 10th, 2011

Sgt. Dane Shockley - Afghanistan and Iraq - U.S Army Medic

Last year our managing editor came to me and a reporter and gave us an assignment.

Next year, he said, Veterans Day will be on 11/11/11. I want a package of stories featuring 11 vets, representing all of the major wars the U.S. has been involved with since World War II.

Easy, right?

I liken this to college, when at the beginning of the semester the professor gives you a task that you’re supposed to work on throughout the semester. Yep, two weeks before finals you’re busting your you know what.

A lot has happened to the newspaper over the last year. We were sold. Our hours reduced. Equipment non-existent. Layoffs. The list goes on and on. But, despite the changes and challenges we still had this assignment looming. A reporter and I sat down in August (actually met between assignments in a parking lot) and made a plan.

He found our subjects. We found the time. We found six stories instead of 11. We found vets from each major war since WWII. We found time to write, edit and produce. We, hopefully, gave our readers something to look forward to all week, as they ran on the front page everyday since Sunday.

Sitting down with these men was an experience. My only regret is not being able to use all of the video interview footage they provided. Out of an hour or so interview I had to get them down to about three minutes. Not an easy feat.

I always find it ironic when a spouse of a veteran comes up to me after and interview and says, “I’ve never heard them talk about that before,” or “I’ve never heard that story.”  This is ironic to me because memories  so haunting, so dark, and  so private that they have never been  shared with a spouse, are shared openly, without coaxing to total strangers.

It’s these times that I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to share the stories of others with others.

There are a lot of extraordinary people among us, veterans definitely included. And to those veterans who say “I really didn’t do anything special,” well you did. Don’t shortchange yourselves.

To these six men, my friends and family (specifically my grandparents) who served, thank you and happy Veterans Day.

 

Jerome Portz - Korean War Veteran - Two Purple Heart Medals

Dan Pineda - Vietnam - Purple Heart - U.S. Army Retired

Capt. Gary Stump - Iraq - Commanding Officer of Combat Outpost in Baghdad

Rick Chatwell - Gulf War Vet - U.S. Navy avionics technician

Lee Springer - U.S. Navy Medic in Guadalcanal during WWII - U.S. Air Force Retired

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