Outside Looking In
I never served time in the military so it's hard for me, as it is for many others who never served, to grasp the harsh reality of what life was like for a young man to suddenly be thrown into a hostile environment thousands of miles from home.
Many veterans that I've spoken to over the years rarely used the word "scared" when asked what it was like to be involved in war.
"We were too busy to be scared," they often say. "We had a job to do and we had to focus on that, so we didn't have time to think about being scared."
Many young men never got a chance to be asked that question as they never made it back home alive. Some are their bodies also never made it back home and are interred overseas.
As I drove down from my home in Willmar on Monday to listen and watch the Memorial Day programs in Taunton and Minneota, I looked around at the many proud veterans donning their military caps or uniforms. Some were involved in battles and some remained stationed in the United States during times of conflict. But they all served our country with pride and honor.
Looking at the many white crosses in the Taunton cemetery, or the white crosses and granite pavers in Veterans Park in Minneota that bear the names of those veterans who have passed is a somber reminder. Some of the pavers honor veterans who are still with us and remind us how each of them should be treated with dignity and respect for the time they spent fighting for our freedom.
To those veterans still with us today, we thank you and salute you. To those veterans who have passed, we continue to hold Memorial Day services in your honor.
Coins on graves
Like years past, I was again asked by some people why I was placing coins on some of the headstones in the cemeteries that I visited.
I always bring a pocket full of shiny new pennies with me during Memorial weekend. This year, I distributed a roll of 50 pennies on random headstones that I came across in Taunton, Minneota, Ghent and Tracy cemeteries.
Placing coins on a veteran's headstone in a long-standing tradition dating back to the Roman Empire and represents a message to the deceased military member's family that someone has visited the grave to pay respect.
The coins have distinct meanings which vary depending on the denomination of the coin. Leaving a penny on the headstone or at the gravesite simply means you visited a veteran's grave and want to honor him or her.
Leaving a nickel means that you and the deceased veteran trained at boot camp together. A dime left at a gravesite indicates you served with him or her in some capacity. A quarter lets the family know that you were with that particular veteran when he or she was killed.
When visiting the graves of my parents in the Tracy City Cemetery, I always make my way to the north side to place a coin on the grave of David Mix, a former neighbor in Tracy. David (the father of Barb Hennen of Ghent) was a veteran and a kind and friendly man who always had time for others. His son, Paul, was arguably the best athlete our town has ever produced, and someone I looked up to as I have written in the past.
Gabe Kapler, the manager of the San Francisco Giants, claims he is so frustrated following the shootings at the Texas elementary school, that he is now refusing to come onto the field for the playing of the National Anthem.
I whole-heartedly agree with Kapler's feeling that something needs to be done now, rather than later, in terms of gun laws to prevent more senseless mass shootings.
Using the flag as a way to get your point across is absolutely wrong, though. The flag holds special meaning to many people, including veterans and their families. There are much better ways to get things changed for the better.
A manager sitting in the clubhouse during the playing of the National Anthem is not going to get the gun laws changed? To me, that's like a little kid pouting in his room because he can't have his way.
Talk to your elected officials and let them know you are tired of these senseless crimes. Working together rationally instead of by threats, riots, looting or burning of buildings is the only way to solve these problems.