FOR more than a decade now, this country has been witness to a phenomenal outpouring of respect and gratitude to the men and women of our armed forces.
Whether it was a spirit that emerged out of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a recognition of the sacrifices that those in uniform and their families make or some other factor, it is abundantly clear that we as a nation have come to truly appreciate what these individuals do.
That spirit has been carried over into a renewed respect for those who have served in other conflicts, most especially the last remnants of the Greatest generation, the World War II vets.
There has even been a recognition of and a partial atonement for the shameless treatment that those from the Vietnam conflict had to endure.
Ironically, a pair of recent stories in The Republic noted two representatives of that generation and the manner in which they continue to serve their fellow veterans, their families and their country.
One, Dale Stickles, an 84-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran who also served in the Korean conflict, has been a volunteer with Hospice of South Central Indiana for almost 20 years. In a number of instances he has been a companion to Hospice patients in the last stages of their life, some of them, like him, veterans.
Tom Downs, a Vietnam war veteran who returned from the war deeply affected by his experiences, has had to overcome a post-war trauma that for a time sent him on a downward spiral of addiction. He was able to emerge from that experience with a new outlook on life that led him to return 13 years ago to the country he once despised and feared.
Out of that return emerged two missions. One was rather unusual — an effort to acquire dog tags lost by American soldiers during the conflict and return the pieces of metal to the soldiers or their families.
He also became a missionary, working with the people of the country in a missionary role. He has been back to the country of his former enemy several times, bringing with him toys and candy which are given to Vietnamese children.
Dale Stickles and Tom Downs are just two of a vast number of veterans who have done far more than “get on with their lives” after their wartime experiences.
They gave of themselves decades ago through their service in the military.
They continue to give of themselves as veterans.