The People’s Tribune

The Importance of Veterans Day

By Brice J. Chandler | Editor

On Thursday, area schools and organizations will honor local veterans in their communities with ceremonies, breakfasts, and other special events on Veterans Day.

It’s a return of many such events after being forced to go virtual or altogether cancel during the pandemic.

As a fellow veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and a writer, ironically enough, it’s difficult for me to find the right wording on why the federal holiday is so important.

To help out, I talked with other area veterans—too many to include in just one article—and asked what the holiday meant to them. It didn’t take long before I noticed each shared a couple similar ideas behind that question.

The willingness to serve and sacrifice for the country.

Sheriff Stephen Korte retired from the US Navy Reserves in 2012 as a Chief Petty Officer. During his time with the acclaimed Seabees, he worked as a heavy equipment operator and held various leadership roles.

For Korte, Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor those who have served.

“It’s important to honor their sacrifices especially today when fewer people are deciding to serve in the military,” he said. “It gives us a chance to remember and say, ‘thank you’ to those who served.”

Although he didn’t enlist until after turning 20-years-old, Korte explained that joining the military was something he always wanted to do.

“It was something that was always held highly in my family, and I knew about some of the opportunities the reserves offered for people.”

Korte said one of the most valuable lessons he took away from the military was the ability to work with different people.

“The military teaches you to get along with and work with a lot of different people,” he explained. “They put you into situations with people who have all different backgrounds, and you learn to work together to accomplish the task. You have to.”

He concluded by saying that Veterans Day is important to remember and honor the sacrifices of all those who served whether during peacetime or war.

“Nowadays, there are fewer people joining. It’s important we don’t forget those who did.”

Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs would agree with Sheriff Korte’s statement,

According to the VA, there are around 19 million U.S. veterans as of 2021 which represents less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population.

The Pew Research Center says that number is declining in Katherine Schaeffer’s article, “The Changing Face of America’s Veteran Population.”

“In 2018, about 7% of U.S. adults were veterans, down from 18% in 1980, according to the Census Bureau. This drop coincides with decreases in active-duty personnel. Over the past half-century, the number of people on active duty has dropped significantly, from 3.5 million in 1968, during the military draft era, to about 1.4 million (or less than 1% of all U.S. adults) in today’s all-volunteer force.”

Mike Cisco of Louisiana currently works in quality control at Bodine Aluminum in Troy and enjoys time with grown children and grandchildren.

He enlisted in 1977 not long after the Vietnam War had ended during that time period when veterans comprised 18% of the population.

For Mike, service, and sacrifice in the military were passed down from his parents and grandparents.

“I had uncles in World War II,” he explained. “My dad served in Korea, my cousins and future brother-in-law in Vietnam. I owed them and this country for my freedom.”

Mike joined the U.S. Army as a 63B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic and served in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and Herzo Base in Germany. With the 3/37 Field Artillery.

Serving in Germany before the collapse of the Berlin Wall forced him to grow up fast and work together with his fellow soldiers.

Like Sheriff Korte, it was through the military where he learned to work well with others despite differences in backgrounds and appearances. His major takeaway from the military was ‘maturity.’

“Veterans Day is a time to reflect on those who went before me, and those who will continue to serve in the future to keep us free,” he answered when asked what Veterans Day meant for him.

His idea of the holiday as a time to reflect on veterans before and after is echoed by another veteran in the Bowling Green area.

Bowling Green R-1 School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Frederickson, served for 25-years in the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Army Reserves.

Like me, he was deployed to Iraq in 2006, although in a different capacity.

Dr. Frederickson served with an Army public relations unit. He started out with the Air Force Band as a trombone player and helped with various goodwill missions along the way.

Despite not serving in a combat occupational specialty, the band and other support units often have a demanding operational tempo, and one of their biggest sacrifices is in lost time.

“You miss a lot when it comes to birthdays and activities when your kids are growing up,” he explained an aspect of a veteran’s sacrifice. “I’m thankful to have had a great support system at home. If it wasn’t for that, being able to serve at that time wouldn’t have been possible.”

When asked about what the holiday meant for him, he answered:

“I’m trying to live my life of service whether it’s in the schools or the military. It’s important to pass the torch on to our younger ones and talk about how important that service is,” Dr. Frederickson continued. “It’s important that we share stories with the younger generations. I worry about fewer and fewer folks having a connection to service members or having that connection themselves. Both of my boys are in the Army. It’s one of the things we valued in my family. It’s so important that we have these Veterans Day events so that our younger ones see what it is like and potentially identify a way they can serve. All of us have something we can bring. We all have gifts. There are ways we can all work together to benefit our community and country.”

Sharing a story as Dr. Frederickson suggests, my career in the Marine Corps began in the late 90’s fresh out of high school during a time of relative peace.

The People’s Tribune editor, Brice Chandler, speaks at the Louisiana Middle School Veterans Day Ceremony.

After being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California my military career was centered around the drone of a daily routine that in all honesty was boring. That all changed on September 11, 2001, while I was on deployment as part of the 15 Marine Expeditionary Unity (MEU) for my first combat deployment.

Like everyone else, those events altered my life. Because of mission sensitivity, my family didn’t have contact with me for months as we moved from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Those events resulted in my reenlistment and later volunteering to go to Fallujah, Iraq as an infantry platoon sergeant in 2006 with B Company 1st Battalion 24th Marines.

In Jan. 2007 after hundreds of combat patrols, my platoon was assigned to guard entry control points around the city, but I was needed elsewhere. I was assigned as military transition team leader (MiTT) for a six-person team and lived with, trained, and fought alongside the Iraqi Army in a very heated part of Fallujah.

Two months and nearly 200 more combat patrols later, my team and I felt like we were accomplishing great things with the Iraqi soldiers—after months of feeling like our hands were tied.

Then on March 27, 2007, one of my good friends and fellow platoon sergeants, Staff Sergeant Marcus Golczynski was killed in action while on a police transition team (PiTT).

My team was devastated by his loss and faced the possibility of disbanding to return to our parent unit.

The next morning, the four-story Iraqi Army barracks where we lived was hit by a complex attack including two suicide vehicle bombs—one carrying chlorine gas.

US Marines and Iraqi Soldiers survey the destruction at the Fallujah Government center being used as an Iraqi Army barracks after a suicide car bomb with chlorine gas detonated next to the building. March 28, 2007. Ssgt. Chandler’s room was directly below the Iraqi soldiers pictured.
Photo submitted by Brice J. Chandler

Unable to initially escape the building, we climbed out the second-story window and regrouped, then we began pulling out wounded Iraqi soldiers and a fellow MiTT team despite our own injuries.

Missouri’s former governor, Eric Greitens was there that day. He wrote a book about it.

You won’t read in it how my team held security on the building for hours and were the last to leave or how my junior Marines coughed up blood for days afterward.

I was wounded. We all were. My lungs were damaged by chlorine gas after a building I was in was bombed. I continue to struggle with breathing issues.   

When I think about Veterans Day and the sacrifices our service members make, I don’t think about my injuries or myself. For me it was a job and risk I accepted.

Instead, I think about my Marines pulling out wounded people and administering first aid until help arrived. They’re the ones I consider heroes although they wouldn’t think so.

I think about people like Mike Cisco and Dr. Frederickson who spent years away from family and loved ones, missed out on anniversaries and events to serve.

I think about Seabees like Korte and the countless others who helped me out while I was deployed. With their help, deployment was more tolerable.

We all serve for different reasons, but we all sacrifice one of our most valuable commodities time, and, possibly our lives.

Honoring and remembering the sacrifice made by those who served in both peacetime and war is why Veterans Day is important to me.

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