Home Correction letter Letter to the Editor: Veterans are remembered for their “duty, honor, country” mantra

Letter to the Editor: Veterans are remembered for their “duty, honor, country” mantra

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Editor’s note: Today’s Veterans Day ceremony in Dover has been canceled due to expected weather conditions from Tropical Storm Nicole. Dave Skocik shares the thought he would have offered at the event.

On Veterans Day, we recognize the men and women who have served our state and our nation with courage, integrity and bravery. They deserve thanks not just one day a year but every day.

Over a period of four decades, I have been privileged to serve with three generations in three veteran branches, from Vietnam in 1966 until my retirement from the Naval Reserve in 2007. After serving 11 years in the Air Force, I took a 21- year break from service before joining the Army National Guard in 1998 and then moving to the Naval Reserve in 2002.

Some of my most memorable experiences were working with combat-wounded Marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Their injuries included amputations, gunshot wounds, and shrapnel, burns and blindness. Their main concern was not their life changing injuries, but the guilt of having “left my Marines behind”.

Ten years later, in 2013, then lieutenant. Governor Matt Denn asked if anyone from our Kent County Vietnam Veterans Chapter 850 could take three soldiers flying to Philadelphia to be guests of honor at Governor Jack Markell’s second inauguration. Mr Denn had read ‘The Outpost’, a bestselling book by CNN’s Jake Tapper which documented the October 2009 heroic actions of a small number of 10th Mountain Division soldiers in the remote Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan.

They repelled several hundred Taliban fighters who attempted to overrun their camp during a siege lasting several days. Eight soldiers were killed, with two dozen wounded. The heroism of two soldiers resulted in their subsequent awarding of the Medal of Honor.

Tapper noted that his book was written to help readers “better understand what our troops are going through, why they are going through it, and what their experience was in Afghanistan.”

Chapter President Joe Startt Jr. and I traveled to Philadelphia and delivered them to the DoubleTree Hotel in Wilmington, with instructions to dine with them, courtesy of the state.

We fell into easy conversation and conversation with their leader, a staff sergeant in his late 30s and the others in their mid 20s. With Joe and I in our mid-sixties, we represented three generations of veterans, but we spoke as timeless colleagues in the context of “duty, honor, country.”

We returned the next morning to escort them to William Penn High School, where they addressed the uniformed Junior ROTC students. Almost all raised their hands when asked how many had family who had served in the military. Later in the day, Mr Tapper joined us for a book signing and public address at the Grand Opera House, before the soldiers were flown to Dover for the dedication ceremony.

Since then, countless others have continued to serve on our behalf in active duty, reserve, and National Guard units. The purpose of this missive is to emphasize that military service and the willingness to sacrifice are generally ingrained in families over generations. Less than 1% of our fellow citizens are willing or able to risk their well-being and their lives for us, let alone ongoing family separations.

If we don’t take care of our current generation of patriots, we cannot expect these men and women to encourage their children to pick them up when their custody ends.

An update: About 15 months ago, in cooperation with the Delaware Department of Correction and in conjunction with veterans, veterans court, elected officials and others, the Delaware Veterans Coalition launched an effort to reaching out to incarcerated veterans, with the understanding of their military service earns them the same benefits as their brothers and sisters outside the walls that lock them up. Our goal is to educate them with a view to their reintegration into society.

The fact is that veterans in general have far more education, training, discipline and camaraderie than the general prison population. We encourage them to prepare for their release in this spirit.

Reach out and thank a veteran. Educate your children on how they guarantee our freedoms. Attend an event. Consider a contribution to the Delaware Veterans Trust Fund at delawareveteranstrustfund.com.

dave skocik

President, Delaware Veterans Coalition

Dover