Off The Press

April 21, 2009

By Kathleen R. Merrill

Veterans deserve honor, respect and your thanks

Kathleen R. Merrill Press Editor

Kathleen R. Merrill Press Editor

Dave Waggoner is a passionate man. His hands shake and his eyes fill with tears if you sit with him long while he talks about veterans — their past, their present and their future.

He can’t shake the sight of Van, a young man whom he saw die in Vietnam. The young man, “just a kid really,” was carrying grenades when he tripped and fell. Dave said he can’t forget the sight, and his eyes well up.

“He needs to be remembered,” Dave said. “Everyone who has served his or her country should be honored.”Dave does that, in many ways, but probably none more visibly than organizing the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Hillside Cemetery. For many years, he and others have placed a flag and a cross on the grave of every documented veteran in the cemetery.

Someone complained about the crosses last year, and now Dave, with help from Allen Flintoft, of Flintoft’s Funeral Home, is trying to get in touch with the families of as many veterans as he can before this year’s Memorial Day, so the tradition can be continued.

So, if you are reading this and you know of a veteran buried at Hillside Cemetery, please let his or her family know about this issue. Survivors of the departed vets need to say whether they want a cross, a flag or some other symbol on the grave. Otherwise, there will only be a flag, and no cross.

Just for the record, I can’t imagine it was a veteran who complained, but I might be wrong. Also for the record, I served my country in the Army for six and a half years. If I am buried here, I want my cross.

Let’s talk a bit more about veterans. I think it is shameful how their memory hasn’t been honored nearly so much in recent years as it used to be. There were celebrations and ceremonies in small towns all across the country to honor and respect those who served, and particularly those who died serving, their country.

Many of those ceremonies have disappeared as older veterans pass away and the younger generations care less and less. What is that about? Is it lack of education? Apathy?

Here’s some things you should know:

-A person who has served in the military is a veteran, whether he or she fought in combat or not.

-Millions of men and women have served this country. And even those who haven’t fought in a war worked hard and sacrificed much during their service.

-Millions of men and women have been injured and/or disabled during their service.

-Hundreds of thousands of men and women have died during their service to this country.

-If you can read this column, you should thank a veteran.

-If you disagree with this column, you should thank a veteran.

-If you can wake up on a Sunday or any other day, and go to the house of worship of your choice, you should thank a veteran.

-If you have been able to go to school, you should thank a veteran.

-If you think we should be at war, you should thank a veteran.

-If you don’t think we should be at war, you should thank a veteran.

-If you can complain, either on the pro or the con side of this cross issue, you should thank a veteran. (Read the story about the cross issue on Page A1.)

-The number of World War II veterans is dwindling at a rapid rate. If you know an older veteran, you should thank him or her today.

Every single person in this country is standing on the backs of veterans, all of whom have toiled and many of whom have died to make sure you’re free to do all of these things and so many more.

Learn more about veterans affairs at

Reach Editor Kathleen R. Merrill at 392-6434, ext. 227, or Comment on this column at

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3 Responses to “Off The Press”

  1. Lee Woods on April 22nd, 2009 11:26 am

    Thank you for the Veterans editorial in the last issue. I agree there is apathy or ‘head-in-the-sand’ view about the veterans contributions to our way of life. Thank you for pointing out some of them. I am a Veteran and if I was to be buried here I would want my cross. I am always surprised, but pleased, when someone thanks me for my service to our country.
    With all the choices for charitable giving, those that support veterans, and especially disabled veterans, should be on everyone’s list. They are on mine.

  2. Wayne Geiger on April 24th, 2009 10:45 am

    A tradition is being changed because one person complained. Why? Who made the decision to make that change based on one complaint? There will always be complainers and they will always find something to complain about. It is an injustice to the deceased veterans to deny them the freedom they died for so let’s keep the tradition and put out the crosses. One offended person in a community does not dictate policy.

    WC Geiger

  3. Orlie Brewer on April 27th, 2009 11:43 am

    I would like to add a couple of more things that you should know:

    – If you can wake up on a Sunday or any other day, and not have to go to a house of worship if you do not want to, you should thank a veteran.

    – Not all veterans are religious. Just for the record, I served my country in the Marine Corps for four years and if I were to be buried at Hillside Cemetery, I would not want a cross over my grave. Please do not try to equate military service with religious affiliation.

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