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  • Robert M. Edsel

Honor our veterans!

This Sunday, November 11, will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War, the “war to end all wars,” back when no one imagined that they would ever need to be numbered. On this Veterans Day, our family will pause to remember and give thanks to all Americans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. My wife, and our two boys, will be inside the comfort of our home, out of harm’s way, enjoying a freedom paid for by others, a gift we all too often take for granted.

My father, a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Pacific, will be on our minds. After returning home from war, he attended college on the GI Bill before going on to a successful career as a stock broker. All his life, people asked him how he maintained such a calm demeanor working in a business involving so much volatility. My dad used to smile when asked. “That’s easy to explain,” he would say. "No one is shooting at me.” Often times the person he told this to would walk over to me and ask what he meant. I then smiled and said, “Exactly what he told you. At eighteen years of age, my dad saw horrific fighting in Saipan and Okinawa. Japanese soldiers WERE shooting at him! So the vicissitudes of the stock market hardly compare.” He was a decent man and a good father, proud to the end of his life to have served his country during World War II. We miss him.

(left to right) Monuments Man Bernard Taper, Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger, A. Ray Edsel and Monuments Man Horace Apgar.

We’ll also be thinking about the twenty-one Monuments Men and Women I have known during my work these past fifteen years, in particular our dear friend, the late Harry Ettlinger, who died just two weeks ago. We have friends (Sandy, Nancy Ann, Annie, and others) whose sons have just returned home safely from assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll be giving thanks for their safe return and successful reintegration into daily life back home . Another friend, Command Sergeant Major Earl Rocca, and so many of the men and women who served with him in various Army Reserve deployments over the past twenty years, will also be in our thoughts and prayers.

It is so easy in our fast paced world for these holidays to pass without us pausing to reflect on why they are holidays in the first place. Most of us will never serve in our nation’s armed forces. Honoring those who have, however briefly, seems the least we can do. On such special occasions, we, as citizens of this great nation, will be well-served to recall the words of President John F. Kennedy, who in 1963 said: "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

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