Veterans Day needs a boost, vets say They urge attendance at services, visits to military hospitals

November 11, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Hugh Ramey remembers a day when hometown children turned out for Veterans Day parades and almost everyone held his hand over his heart or saluted as the flag passed by.

Today, laments Ramey, a World War II Navy veteran who served in the Pacific theater, folks are more likely to be found standing in a checkout line at a mall or idly enjoying a day off from work than showing their appreciation for veterans on Veterans Day.

The once-widespread appreciation for the holiday seems to have paled for much of the nation, say veterans young and old .

"It's become passe for the general public. They don't seem to care one way or another" said Ramey.

He was among a strong turnout for a bull roast held yesterday by the Military Order of the Cootie at Veterans of Foreign Wars Essex Memorial Post No. 2621 to raise money to aid hospitalized veterans.

John Adams, a former Navy seaman who did a three-year tour of duty in the Vietnam War, said he thinks the roots for the shift in public sentiment can be traced to the educational system.

"Kids just aren't being taught right about the veteran," said Adams, commander of the Essex Post's Cooties, an organization founded during World War I to aid hospitalized veterans and the wives and orphans of fallen veterans.

Still, said Adams and other veterans at the bull roast yesterday, it wouldn't take much for the tide to turn and a strong measure of civic pride to be restored in Veterans Day.

And that might happen, veterans said, if more people took time to visit hospitalized and disabled vets.

John Shumaker, 47, who served two years in the Vietnam War while in the Marine Corps, said it would help if people attended one of the many memorial services organized by local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America.

"All it would take is maybe an hour out of their day to attend a memorial service like the one we're having here," said Shumaker, chaplain for the Essex VFW post.

"Whether there are just 10 people who come out for our service, I'll be there anyway because it's important to me and the other veterans. But if there's 50 or 100 people, it really gives you a feeling of pride."

The events are especially rewarding, he and other veterans said, when children attend.

Michael Crawford, 38, who served in an Army combat border patrol force on the German border during the mid-70s, said a show of pride in veterans is even simpler.

"If people just hung a flag out on the porch, that would show respect and pride," Crawford said.

But he also encouraged people to attend memorial services, such as the one the Essex VFW post plans at 6: 30 p.m. today at 206 Riverside Road or the service Vietnam veterans have scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Middle Branch Park.

"Even if you're not a veteran, these services can be very spiritual and moving," Crawford said.

The sentiment among veterans at yesterday's Essex event was regret that many Americans forget the high price some veterans paid.

"The forgotten ones are really the veterans who were injured and have had to spend a lot of their lives in a hospital," said Ramey.

"People never think about them or visit them. The veterans do, but they are really forgotten by just about everyone else, even on Veterans Day."

James Leppert, who served in the Army and did a tour of duty in the Korean War, agreed.

"It doesn't really dawn on you just how much some people gave by serving until you go into some of these veteran hospitals and you see the guys who lost a lot," said Leppert.

"If more people saw that, they'd have a much greater appreciation for the veteran, and maybe Veterans Day would mean more than a day off or a sale."

Said Shumaker, the chaplain, "I like to tell people, 'Imagine being yanked off the street one day and sent to a foreign country and that your chances of dying there are about the same as living.'

"If you can conceptualize that, you have some idea of what a lot of veterans have been through. Maybe then Veterans Day would hold a lot more meaning for people."

Whether the average person takes an interest in Veterans Day or not, one thing remains unchanged for most veterans, said Ramey, the World War II vet:

"Pride. Pride at having served. That stays with you."

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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