Sitting around the coffee table the other day at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida we remembered picking up a Stars and Stripes newspaper and reading about what was going on as we served. Now the paper is in digital form and still reporting the military news, nice to know that it is still around. You also can subscribe online to the Stars and Stripes or if interested in Oregon news go to Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs and you might subscribe to their publications. If in Idaho go to Idaho Division of Veteran Services and you might find some interesting publications, also most states will have their own department of veteran affairs for interesting publications.

One of the big stories in the Stars and Stripes recently was about Tom McCauley a veteran 97 years old that recently was honored with the Legion of Honor medal from the French government for his part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in WWII before moving on to help liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. In reading that story and hearing the family talk about his struggles over the years with his waking up at 3 a.m. screaming and his challenges, it brought me back to the coffee table here locally and looking in the eyes of veterans today that are the ones that have fought for our country and carry the scars of war every day. They are our neighbors, friends, loved ones that we sometimes forget to honor and support.

I read in the news every day about liberty, equality, justice and I flash back to the coffins and burials that I have attended over the years since being home from Vietnam. Then I go to a darker place and remember the body bags in ‘Nam and never once did I ever question what color of the skin these heroes were. Seems like there are reminders around us all the time that we have to consider our military service a unifying force. Now I know that there will be exceptions with a different experience and some might not agree with me but this is my take and my experience that we are talking about at this moment. Given all the activity not only locally but throughout the United States and the world, our conversations have led us to focus more on our Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, for so much emphasis is now focusing on our individual rights, the rule of law, its interpretation and consequences.

There have recently been so many veterans using the VA Health system that have questioned the right of our government to tell us that we can or can’t use a particular treatment, and that if we disagree there is no alternative. As a matter of fact, it was 232 years ago on this very day, June 21, 1788, that our Constitution of the United States was ratified in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at a constitutional convention. The convention was called for a year earlier by New York’s representative, Alexander Hamilton, to amend the Articles of Confederation which were in place but not working too well to bring a cohesiveness of a centralized government for greater strength and future stability. At that time too there was a lot of discourse and bickering on the facts that protections of states and individuals’ rights such as speech, religion and the press, were not being addressed, and until those rights were promised, there would not be a majority of states to ratify our constitution. So those rights were handled as amendments to the Constitution and became known as the Bill of Rights. The requirement to adopt a new Constitution required that nine of the 13 original states had to ratify the agreement. Delaware was the first state to ratify and New Hampshire was the ninth.

The Constitution specifically sets out to embrace and define, that the purpose of all it contains, is to create a government that will meet the needs of the people, which we obviously fall short of its intent from time to time. There is not, for example, a (or one) general government power to do whatever it judges to promote the general Welfare. This might be a good thing!

“Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.” Alexander Hamilton.

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, 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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