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Veterans' stories must be shared

Ripon Commonwealth Press - 5/30/2018

Why are the sacrifices of America's veterans forgotten increasingly often?

Maybe because a larger divide has emerged between the U.S. military and the majority of American citizens.

Therefore, it's the duty of veterans to share their stories, and for non-veterans to seek those tales, suggested American Legion Commander Mike Meeker.

Meeker offered a keynote speech written by fellow Legionnaire Karl Stewart at Monday's Memorial Day program.

"Sadly, many Americans have lost their connection with their history ... For a growing percentage of Americans, Memorial Day [has begun to mean] a three-day weekend or a major shopping day," Meeker said, reading Stewart's words, while noting that "The people present at this event remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. You come here to honor our fallen comrades with your presence. You understand that on Memorial Day we honor the ideals and values those soldiers stood for and died defending."

Those who attended did so at the Ripon High School gym, driven indoors by a light rain (with the threat of worse weather rumbling on the horizon).

Stewart's speech at the program, typically held at the Village Green downtown followed by a parade and ceremony at Hillside Cemetery, pushed for more sharing.

"Many of the older veterans ... don't often talk about their service, and their numbers keep dwindling," Meeker said. "... In fact, many Americans have not ever even met a soldier. Today many young people have no personal connection to the military. Nine out of 10 students surveyed today say they have no interest in serving in the military. ROTC programs on our colleges and universities struggle to sign up cadets to fill up the officer ranks."

Stewart's speech encouraged Riponites to fight this apathy for military service by taking time to offer respect for the sacrifices given.

"You are already doing an important thing, making a difference by being here today. You are not forgetting the sacrifices of our soldiers," Meeker said, noting that "there are thousands of meaningful suggestions you can talk about to your family and friends.

"If you are a veteran, share your story. Or collect other stories and share them. Encourage veterans to share their story with you ..."

Ripon Common Council president Ald. Al Schraeder also spoke, offering the city's appreciation for those sacrifices given.

"To the men and women currently serving in our Armed Services, we thank you. We thank you for your service, we thank you for protecting our freedom, we thank you for protecting the rights that oftentimes get taken for granted," he said. "And most importantly, we thank you and your families for the many sacrifices that you have made on our behalves, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives of their very lives to protect us all. May God's blessings be with each and every one of you."


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