A Salute to Our Military Veterans

If I could, I’d honor every single military veteran who ever served this country in battle.

It wouldn’t matter which war—Japan, Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, or Afghanistan. To me, one bloodshed or emotional scar is as bad as another.

These are my true heroes, not the baseball players earning megabuck salaries and the football elite catching million-dollar touchdowns.

Most of the ones I would salute are the anonymous and the unheralded who look for no ceremonial tributes—quiet heroes whose deeds are better left unsaid than undone.

As the fight in Afghanistan proceeds to a bitter end while another in Syria and Libya seems to be escalating, it’s time for all of us to pause and reflect upon all those putting their lives at risk for the well-being of this country.

It was staggering to see our consulate invaded in Libya and innocent victims put to death. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude on this Veterans’ Day. It’s a time for not only those who wear a military uniform but others who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice.

As I look to Hollywood, I see military films being transfixed upon our viewing public. The real war is no play act. It’s a blood-and-guts war that can aim its target on my son or your daughter. When a soldier or Marine dies, I tend to take it very personally as an American. We all should.

It’s incumbent upon each and every one of us to pay homage. One way would be to fly the American flag from your home or business. Another is to attend a Veterans’ Day parade in your municipality.

In my city, people like American Legion guru John Kazarosian take no hiatus in organizing parades and getting the youth involved. It wasn’t enough for him to serve the U.S. Navy with admiration. Truth is, he and others are still serving the ranks, long after discharge.

The pity of it all is that no enough loyalists come out to watch a Veterans’ Day parade. Most people treat the holiday as a day to catch a few more winks, enjoy a couple beers over the barbeque, and maybe wax the car. Only a dedicated few will come out to attend the ceremony.

I find it particularly troublesome to see public apathy at a time like this. On this Veterans’ Day, let us all take a moment to reflect.

Let us count our blessings to be living in a homeland where peace and security reign.

Let us applaud the fact we can worship any faith to our heart’s content, vote for whom we please, raise our children in a relatively safe environment, and give them the educational opportunities they richly deserve.

America owes much of her success to the immigrant. Large countries as well as small have contributed their share in making this country a haven for the refugee. Our military veterans have preserved that allegiance with honor, dignity, and extreme patriotism.

Much too often, we pay tribute to the men in our military. So, here’s a vote of gratitude to the women who have served their time without fanfare. At a time when women were frowned upon to enlist, many from this city took the ultimate step.

This past Labor Day found me in Boston covering the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Olympics for the Weekly, a job I’ve handled for the past 42 years as a labor of love. That’s not the story.

Two men were seated at a table, enjoying the festivities, when a conversation ensued. One was from California, the other from nearby Springfield. Upon introducing themselves formally, they discovered a close tie with one another.

Seems both men served with the army in Korea. Not only that, they were members of the same platoon at Fort Devens, stationed in the same barracks. They occupied the same bunk bed—one on top and the other below.

Now, here they were 60 years later inside a dance hall.

“I still have my draft card,” said one, pulling out his wallet.

“So do I,” said the other, extracting his. A bit worn around the edges but very much valid. In the midst of all the commotion, here were two octogenarians from the same military mold hugging emotionally. After being shipped to the front lines that year, they lost touch with one another until fate reunited them on this evening.

The next time you see a military veteran, shake their hand. Show them a little respect. Above all, thank them for the service they rendered.

Most of them probably wouldn’t want the recognition. But nobody deserves it more.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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  1. I write to complete your article
    You are a Man… !’m a Mother

    Mothers’ Tears Can’t Dry
    Until They Die

    Why war exists in happy lands?
    In gulfs, in deserts…at mountains highs…

    Why mothers should cry for handsome sons?
    Cover their graves before they die!

    Why! Why! Why! and… endless…whys?
    Why mothers’ tomorrows will live in sigh…

    We have incessant creations in life.
    Why can’t we silence murderers in hive…?

    Why should soldiers die?
    Mothers will cry; tears will never dry…

    Till they reach, where their beats went lie.
    Wherever they lay, echoes stay calling . . .why!

    Mothers’ losses can’t be replaced
    In this known dishonest fiery wild space.

    Which chromosome started cruel wars?
    Criminal genes rein endless crosses on bays…

    The mother beloveds straggled in life.
    Homes distorted impossible to revive.

    Mothers are mothers wherever they are,
    Tears will not dry until they die…!

    Sylva Portoian, MD
    From poetry collection “Sons Take My Heart and Transplant’ (March 2009)

  2. Beautiful article as usual Tom.
    As my 20 year career in the navy comes to an end I think of all my fellow shipmantes that I have not seen or heard from. I wonder how they are and what they are doing. Facebook is a great tool for keeping in touch.

    Again, thanks,
    Chief Jerikian

  3. My gratitude to both Dr. Sylva Portoian and Mike Jerikian. To Sylva first for the powerful poetry she seems to write for every fitting occasion. You truly outdid yourself with this one commemorting our veteranbs. And to you Mike for your 20 years with the military. You are a credit to the American way. God bless you both and keep you in our midst forever.

  4. On 11/17/12, St John Armenian Church of San Francisco, 275 Olympia Way,
    will be holding its Annual Veterans Dinner to honor United States Marine Captain Mathew Patrick Manoukian of Los Altos Hills, California.

    Captain Manoukian was killed in action in August, as many of us know.

    Please come to our event, and donate to MARSOC Foundation, which helps to care for the families of Marines and Navy Corpsmen killed in action while helping bring peace and dignity to oppressed and innocent Afghan civilians.


    Please call the Church office at 415.661-1142 by Wednesday November 14, to rsvp. Veterans are admitted free; adults are $ 10.00, children 12 and under
    $ 5.00.

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