Reflecting about the different holidays spent away from family and friends while serving our nation.

Going outside the wire and completing a mission that brought about memories that created tears and thoughts of camaraderie of the family lost on that mission. Receiving a box of goodies from a community or from a mom or friend and sitting in a corner thinking about home or the meaning of Christmas. Wondering about the existence of a God in a world full of death and destruction? Spending time on R&R in a place that would be shunned if back home. Having a chaplin bless food and a special meal prepared in the safety of a bunker or behind some sandbags. Praying and knowing that there is a God, and feeling that special bond that seems to be stronger than ever before.

The stories are as diverse as the number of troops that I have talked with regarding the time spent away from home. Some troops look forward to the time they could get back while others are not wanting to go back, at all.

I know that some folks during this time of year celebrate Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa and, of course, Christmas, and with those celebrations come a connection with one’s youth and a time to stop for a moment. Somewhere in the world right now onboard a ship, in the middle of a jungle, desert or strange village our troops are defending our way of life and concerned about a virus. We are here at home attempting to make the best of COVID-19, and our political and economic challenges. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we have in today’s world instant communications with family, friends and loved ones no matter where we are stationed and, because of this, we no longer have the luxury of concentrating on the mission at hand.

I remember talking with Bob Peterson (Army Air Corp- B-24 flight engineer and top turret gunner) here in Ontario a few years ago about his time in the Winter of 1944/45, when he was taken as a German prisoner and forced to march on the 600-mile Black Death March. He survived that march, while many died. Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida and I had the opportunity to hear the stories of hope that Bob had while serving our nation. I miss Bob (I also miss Imogene). I know that his stories always had a little humor in them, and I felt the pain of his experiences of a troop away from home. Bob, his wife, Imogene, and Dixie, one of their children, brought much joy to our community and a living history of their memories. I thank them and the rest of their family for bringing to light the true meaning of service, love and passion.

The stories of our troops that have served our nation during holidays away from home are many, and some names are on the many memorials around our country and the world. The cemeteries are filled with the ones who did not make it back. Some came back to an ungrateful nation, some to a parade. All had reflections when sitting in a foxhole or other location when a particular holiday that they observed came about. I for one, respect each and every one of them for how they handled that time away.

I remember during one Christmas season in ‘Nam I was wet, uncomfortable and concerned about another attack on the airfield that night. I was brought back to reality when a “Tunnel Rat” sat down across from me outside the “Hooch.” He started to crochet, and I noticed that he spaced out as he was doing it. He had just come back from a mission, and it was around Christmas Day, or so. He wanted his space, so we gave him his space. He was with the Australian forces and I am sure that the time of year, the job he was on and the reflections that he had were much different than we Air Force technicians working on cargo planes!

We can only imagine what is in the minds of the troops that we send around the world in our name, especially during the holidays.

Christmas is a few days away and I wanted you to know that we have been feeding and giving boxes of food to our local troops in need. Our needs have been great this year between the COVID-19, lost jobs, cut pay and the families that are trying to make ends meet.

Please reach out and give some joy to those that might need a little boost this year. Yes, honor our troops.

“Honor those who have taught us the true meaning of giving.” — Bridget Bosch

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, help@veteranadvocates.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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