Events honoring vets planned Wednesday

by marlys good

Ninety-seven years ago, on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, Nov. 11 became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

On Nov. 11, the community will remember the veterans of yesterday, today and tomorrow, who have given so much to us and for us.

American flags will be flying in front of businesses/homes on North Sixth Street and Greybull Avenue in honor of all veterans; Jerry Ewen invites all veterans to stop in at the Uptown Cafe any time Veterans Day and enjoy free coffee, donuts, and the lunch special. Ewen, a Vietnam veteran, has been hosting this event for the past several decades.

The Greybull Middle School Student Council will hold its annual Veterans Day celebration at 8:30 a.m. in the middle school gym (across the street from the Maverik). Seating begins at 8:15. Mike Laird will be the guest speaker; Tom Bircher will play the bagpipes. Refreshments will be served immediately following the assembly in the middle school computer lab.

Wednesday evening all veterans from Greybull, Basin, Lovell, Burlington, Hyattville and Shell, and their spouses, are invited to an “evening of tribute,” hosted by the BPOE at the Elks lodge in Greybull. The evening will include the banquet (free to veterans; $8 for spouses), a ceremony and guest speakers.

We asked several of our veterans to share what Veteran’s Day means to them.

Merl Gipson, a veteran of World War II, was inducted into the army in 1943, and served in the Philippines and Luzon. “I can still remember that it took 46 days to get from the U.S. to the Philippines by ship,” he said in a soft voice. “That is a long time.”

On Nov. 11, as he has every year, he will “be thankful that I was part of it, that I helped my country, and that I came back home and to my family safely.”

John Oliver served in the U.S. Army from August 1948 until May 1952. He was stationed in Japan with the occupation force for 21 months. The date imprinted in Oliver’s mind is not Nov. 11, but June 25. “That’s the day North Korea invaded South Korea,” and his unit was deployed to Korea where Oliver spent the next year.

“I can remember vividly being on the northern border of Korea in the middle of December, the wind chill was 55 below and we had no place to get warm.”

Oliver said, “They called Korea the ‘forgotten war,’ but I have never forgotten it.”

Mike McMillan said he was “honored” to serve in Vietnam (from 1969-1970) with “America’s best sons – many of us offspring of World War II fathers.” He served with an all-volunteer small paratrooper unit called “Sky Soldiers,” the highly decorated 173rd Airborne Brigade. The army tapped him to be a sniper and he received his training at a sniper school at An Khe, Vietnam.

“There were very few of us, and most were killed or wounded; I was seriously wounded after eight months in combat, along with most of those I served alongside.”

McMillan received his discharge, returned home, continued his education and became an ordained minister.

McMillan says in “those early years, Veterans Day was a dark day for me. I would isolate myself, generally going into the hills alone to avoid the fanfare. A dark cloud would settle over my head because the grief I carried was deep and personal. I would walk the hills and try to piece together what had happened to me; why I was still alive when others had their names etched in black granite at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.”

He later rededicated himself to those who had died and now endeavors “to live my life the best I can for them; I have come to realize that life is a circle … now in my retirement years I find peace in helping and supporting the young warriors; the names and faces are the same.

“War is a condition that still persists; some who choose to answer the call will pay the ultimate price. Veterans Day is a sacred day to honor those who did not shirk their duty to America. It is a reminder that freedom is not free. The heroes in war are those who gave their all.”

Mike Laird has been a member of the Wyoming National Guard for 32 years. It was as a member of the Guard that he was deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he served until 2005.

On Veterans Day, his thoughts are not on his service, but “I remember the veterans who gave (and are still giving) everything – their lives for our freedom. It is not what I have done, but what they done, what they have sacrificed for us. May God bless America and sustain the families of those who died, along with the memories of the names and faces of those who will be forever young.”

Lest we forget, it was Poet Laureate Maya Angelou who said, “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”

President John F. Kennedy reminded us that: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”