When most people reflect on the holiday season, they think about the six-week extravaganza that begins on Thanksgiving and lasts through the new year. But in the KMC, where servicemembers of all stripes work side by side, one of the most important days comes a bit earlier than turkey day.
Veterans Day is how Americans recognize Armistice Day, which falls on Nov. 11 every year to commemorate the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.
“On Veterans Day we honor the sacrifice of those who were lost in past wars and the current struggle,” said Brig. Gen. Rich Johnston, KMC and 86th Airlift Wing commander. “We must never forget their courage. Veterans Day reminds us of the families who lost a loved one and we pray for their comfort. Each of these men and women took an oath to defend America – and they upheld that oath with honor and decency.”
A wide assortment of veterans – both retired and active duty – live throughout the KMC. Donald Behrman, a retiree who now lives in Germany, spent 28 years in the Army and served as an infantry fighter in Korea and a combat medic in Vietnam. For him, Veterans Day means freedom – and more.
“It’s a day that represents the people who fought and died, or were killed serving for our country,” he said. “Military service meant an awful lot to me.”
For some newer veterans, the day brings a greater understanding of what it means to serve in a wartime situation. Senior Airman Kerry Solan-Johnson, who returned from Iraq in October, said, “(Being a vet) to me means the responsibility is mine to tell the story of what we’re doing ‘over there.’ We’re changing lives in a positive way – training Iraqis, helping open schools in Afghanistan, providing healthcare in our theater hospitals. The deployed mission is mind boggling and amazing – to not tell the story of the sweat, labor and faith that goes into the mission is to ignore the sacrifice of those who are so far from home.”
Other veterans invoke memories of troops who fought during the two World Wars. For them, the memories of Americans fighting far from home hit close to home while living in Germany.
“When I was a child back in the hills of Missouri, there was this man who lived down the road from us who’d been a veteran of World War I,” said Sgt. Brad Melton, a member of Alpha Company at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and a veteran of deployments in Bosnia and Somalia. “He used to tell us stories of his time at war and he’d take off his boot and show us where he’d lost three toes due to trench foot, which took place as he was fighting in the trenches along the French/German border. Times were pretty tough for Soldiers back then.”
Rich Krenz, a civilian who now works in the LRMC optometry department following a 26-year Army career and deployments during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, likened some of the current struggles to past ones.
“Just as in World War II, when Nazis and Fascists were trying to take freedoms away from people; in the Global War on Terrorism we are assisting other nations in having freedom,” he said. “We are assisting them in being free and out from under the totalitarian thumb.
According to Col. Kurt Lohide, 435th Air Base Wing commander, the holiday is ultimately about honoring those who have served.
“Despite the many sacrifices, I can think of no nobler calling than to serve in the armed forces of the United States,” he said. “Veteran’s Day is our opportunity to seek out those who have responded to this calling and thank them for their selfless service to our country.”
(Members of LRMC Public Affairs staff also contributed to this story)