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Would we give what they gave?

Nov 14, 2013 - By Betty Starks Case

Ask yourself the question, and help a veteran

I've wondered for some time why we humans seem to think life on Earth began when we did.

It's probably a natural thing to see it that way. But hey, folks, you don't really believe it, do you?

Nor should we forget our veterans when their time of service or day of recognition is past.

Many publications write their stories as if veterans only came into being with World War II, the Vietnam War, Korean, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc..

My education included the Civil, Revolutionary, World Ware I, and several other conflicts that occurred far before my time. These, too, are a part of American history.

My father fought in World War I, as did his brother. Yes, that makes me somewhat "olderly." But when I mentioned my dad in this column recently, someone apparently thought it a typo and changed the WWI to WWII. I smiled. My father's WWI uniform can be found in the Riverton Museum.

The fact is, the world didn't begin with us and won't likely end with us.

Still, today's stories are the most useful in helping us to visualize what all veterans may have experienced and what their needs might be.

My uncle suffered great tragedy in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder back when it was called shell-shock, if it was recognized at all. Certainly no treatment was known for the condition then. Veterans with such afflictions were simply sent off to a home for the mentally ill to stay until they died. There was little if any rehabilitation or hope for a chance to return to normal life for the gentle uncle of my childhood.

Today, I encourage and cheer for the awareness and changes that are occurring to help these dear ones who leave comfortable, peaceful lives to become killer-oriented types, then are expected to morph back to normal when it's over.

All so the rest of us may continue life in our own peaceful world.

We were privileged to watch last weekend's PBS program sharing a poignant memorial to Chance Phelps of Dubois, one of our own Wyoming veterans. Chance is being remembered and honored by his mother, Gretchen Mack, who invites struggling veterans and families to spend time in the peaceful, serene environment of the mountain ranch where she lives.

Several of Gretchen's guests spoke on the program, sharing the healing they feel in this privilege. What a fine living tribute to her son.

Another commendable Wyoming gift to our veterans in recent times was the "Honor Flights," that took WWII veterans from Wyoming to the Washington, D.C. Memorial built in their honor.

Among these veterans I found the story and photograph of a young master sergeant, now Lt. Colonel Russell Parker, who taught classes at the Air Force ROTC detachment at the University of Wyoming while earning his own degree. I worked in the AFROTC office at the time.

I wrote to Russ (now in his 90s) recalling some of our early experiences for him to ponder -- from his cadets' courageous cleanup mission of the historic plane crash on a nearby mountain, to the rare inclusion of this civilian secretary in the cadets' commissioning.

We learn more every day about rehab programs created by thoughtful people who truly understand what our veterans have been through -- with retreat centers in quiet woods, sessions with caring, understanding therapists, animal companions such as dogs and horses offering unbiased support and approval. The list goes on. I'm so grateful for every one.

My own involvement includes my father, three brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews, step-grandson and granddaughter who served in the military, along with many friends, and the son of loved neighbor-next-door. So, yes, my caring about their struggles covers a large area.

Grandson Chris and wife Gigi each completed 20 years of service to the U.S. Air Force just four years ago. Chris is now in his last quarter of college -- an honor student directing mind and energy to the demanding task of continued education.

I know of many who benefited greatly after WWII by a program that offered financial aid to veterans to further their education or training in work choices.

I'm not sure where such programs stand today. One I read of keeps a military person believing in a future. For every dollar one saves toward his/her education, the government adds two dollars. But that depends on whether military members can find a dollar to save from military pay. I think we can and should do better. We did after WWII.

Of all the tax money wasted in Washington, surely the least we can do to say "Thank you," is to ask more than once a year, "Would we do what they did? Give what they gave?"

Then truly help our veterans find their place in the world they offer their lives to preserve.

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