As a combination news and sports reporter who often writes features as well, I have the privilege of writing about a crazy variety of topics on a weekly basis, but there was one noticeable theme in my coverage this past month-and-a-half, and it really got me thinking.
I was fortunate to be able to write several articles about U.S. veterans: Army Pfc. Arthur Leiviska, a prisoner-of-war who died in 1951 during the Korean War whose remains are finally being returned home for a Memorial Day service (March 24, April 27); a veterans symposium led by State Representative Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine (April 28); and the second Upper Peninsula Honor Flight that gave tribute to dozens of World War II vets (May 2).
As a reporter, there's something I never got to say directly in those articles: Thank you, veterans!
I assure you I never take my job for granted, particularly one that so perfectly encapsulates our free speech/press rights, but this past month has given me an even greater appreciation for the sacrifices that have allowed me the job I have in the country I live in. Here I sit safely behind a computer screen surrounded by the comforts of home, a right I have only because somebody else exchanged home for a far-away bunker.
It's been my honor to speak with dozens of veterans recently, several who recounted heroic stories of their time in combat defending the freedoms I so often sadly take for granted.
One of the most touching stories I've heard is one I haven't even had a chance to put in print yet from a squad member of Leiviska, Al Rosati, who barely survived the attack that resulted in Leiviska's capture and eventual death as a POW. I'll tell much more of that story in an article later this month previewing Leiviska's 2 p.m. Memorial Day service, which is expected to draw at least 500 people.
I realize Memorial Day is more than three weeks away, but I'm glad I had a chance to write this article now. If you're anything like me, you have a tendency to celebrate holidays as they come up and quickly forget about them afterward.
For some holidays, as far as I'm concerned, that's OK - Halloween as a quick example. Others, I don't think it is. As a Christian, I think reflecting on the importance of Easter and Christmas should be done far more often than just one day a year. As an American, the same can be said for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
My intent is not to minimize the importance of those holidays, but rather to maximize the recognition of what those holidays commemorate. It's easy to buy flowers for my wife on Valentines Day. It's easy to thank my mom on Mothers Day and my dad on Fathers Day. It's easy to recognize a veteran on Veterans Day.
May this serve as a challenge to all of us, myself included, to make someone's day, regardless of what the calendar says. A spontaneous just-because gift, a handwritten letter in the mail, a short but heartfelt Facebook message - the options are limitless. At the very least, thank a veteran. They deserve it.
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.