A Veterans Day Remembrance

The following Veterans Day reflections were written by Alamedan lrv Hamilton, on Nov. 03, 2003. He deeply believed and was most patriotic when it came to his thoughts about our soldiers and the great services they have provided to our country. He passed away last Memorial Day. 

The Quiet Heroes

When I was a kid in grammar school, Nov. 11 was called Armistice Day. And at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, our teacher would have everyone stand and be quiet for a minute. Doing so, we acknowledged that moment in 1918 when an armistice was signed and the dreadful carnage of World War I finally ended.

We were also honoring those who were fighting in the second of the World Wars. The war that was still underway. For me, it was to honor my Dad, away in the Navy, and my uncles and neighbors who were in uniform around the world.

In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day after yet another war- Korea- had been added to our country's history. It is to someone’s credit that the commemoration remains on Nov. 11, rather than moving from date to date to create another long weekend. Keeping the day retains that special moment, even though its origins are lost to many.

Veterans Day is a time to acknowledge the fact that millions of American men and women have served their country. For many, like me, it involved a single tour of duty. For others, military service became their life's work.

Most of us came back to our civilian lives whole. Others returned with the scars- physical and/ or mental- that are common by-products of combat. And there are those who don't come back. Their names are in the paper nearly every day. I still think of friends whose hands I shook as they left for the service, never imagining that would be the last time I would ever see them.

I believe that most veterans find the service to be a challenging, exciting and often memorable experience. You go in, complete your duty, wherever it may take you, and then get on with your life.

But, in the process, countless heroes are made. For I believe anyone who experiences combat is a hero because being put at risk- with the real possibility of injury or death- requires bravery. I was in a combat unit. But I was never shot at, and I never shot at anyone. I was not a hero.

However, I served with many combat veterans of World War II and Korea. They were all heroes. ; · And I've had the honor of knowing a number of truly special heroes. One was a neighbor when I was in high school. He was a Marine who had received the Medal of Honor for falling on an enemy grenade to save his buddies in Korea.. Somehow he survived and came home, quiet, soft-spoken and still able to smile.

I've also come to know some of these special heroes here in Alameda where I live and work. Fighter pilots who did battle with the enemy in the sky, one on one. Men who went behind enemy lines to destroy bridges, take out gun positions, bring downed aviators to safety, or perform long-range recon behind enemy lines.

These local heroes are men we see regularly. Men we know as friends.

Typically they are men who rarely discuss their heroism. In fact, you may never know of their remarkable deeds. Yet, they have put themselves at great risk to protect our way of life.

So on Nov. 11, at 11 a.m., take a moment to give credit to veterans. Especially the heroes. Do it with a thought at that special moment on Tuesday morning, acknowledging what they've done. Or remember the significance of the day with a shake of a veteran's hand, and maybe even a word of thanks.

And if you're a veteran yourself, take a minute to feel pride for having served your country. For by doing so you have contributed to the strength of our nation.

Irv Hamilton served in the Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany.