Our Veterans, Our Heroes
Readers, I’d like to share with you a story that was sent to me last week from Steve Leach, by way of Bill Clark, both residents of Pawlet.
Leach is the current Commander at VFW Post 6471 in Manchester, Vt., and a former Commander of the Vermont State VFW; he was instrumental in bringing about the placement of a new Korean War Veterans Memorial on Route 7A, just south of Manchester, Vt.
Clark helped develop Vermont’s first year-round farmer’s market, in Rutland, Vt., and was inducted into the Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2010. He continues to be an active member of his community well into his golden years.
October 1, 2013 was a beautiful, sunny day, as over 100 World War II veterans arrived on a planned tour, to finally see the World War II Memorial dedicated to them in Washington, D.C. As they approached the Memorial, they were suprised to see barricades blocking the entrances. These men have waited over 65 years for this day; they were in their 80s and 90s, many in wheel chairs.
Seems that the country they so gallantly had served was being bamboozled by a disfunctional Congress that couldn’t agree on the government’s budget, but came together long enough to close down all ‘non-essential’ government activities on October 1. This meant closing all national parks, memorials and historic sites throughout the country, including many in Washington.
As the veterans stared at the barricades in disbelief, a news reporter walked up to one ninety-year-old in a wheelchair, and asked, “What now?” The vet looked up at him with a gleam in his eye, and said, “You know, I risked my life for three and a half years, fighting the most dangerous enemy this country has ever had, in the greatest war in the history of the world. Many of my comrades never returned. I’ve waited 65 years for this memorial to be built, and I’ve traveled over 2000 miles to be here. This will probably be my only chance to ever see it. D-Day didn’t stop us, Omaha Beach didn’t stop us, the Battle of the Bulge didn’t stop us, Hitler didn’t stop us – do you think these barricades are going to stop us now? Think again!”
Well, needless to say, these men got to see their Memorial.
As we celebrate this Veterans Day, remember the sacrifices that are made each and every day by the members of our armed forces, past and present. Many such stories abide in the hearts of these brave men and women, and I encourage you to seek them out. These stories are part of our folklore. By hearing them we are reminded of the hero in all of us. I invite you to write to me, and share your own stories.
Steve Leach is available to share the stories he has heard from the veterans he has encountered. He recently embarked on a trip of a lifetime with 47 others, when they took the Steven Ambros Historical Tour to retrace the course of the 101st Airborne during World War II. Stops included basic training at a Georgia Boot Camp, many well known and lesser known battle sites, and finally, to Germany’s defeat in Austria in May 1945.