Remembering Sacrifice: Community should honor, help veterans

Fifty years ago today John Modglin of Greenfield died in Vietnam. The war came to our county. A family was torn apart.

This is the start of 12 services we in the veterans community will host at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the corner of Davis Road and State Road 9. Each event will be at 7 p.m., and we will fire a salute and play taps. Short and sweet like the lives lost. All are welcome to attend.

All also are welcome to help us prepare for the next family that will be touched by war here in our hometown. We are raising money for a Veterans Service Center here, named after our local hero, Col. Weir Cook. You can donate through the Weir Cook Memorial Foundation at weircookmemorial.org/ wc-vet-center, or do as I have done: contact the Hancock County Foundation and provide a contribution in your will to leave some funds to support this endeavor. Long after we are gone from this earth, there will be another John Modglin standing on the wall of freedom, and they or their families will benefit from your gift if they need assistance.

I didn’t know John. Nor his family. But I am a novelist, and my job is to help you feel their sacrifice. And my job as a citizen and advocate is to make his death mean something to you.

In 1967 America did not realize the sacrifice and political upheaval this war would bring. We didn’t see the Tet Offensive in our future, nor the great generational divide that carved the sons and daughters of the World War II generation away from their families. We didn’t have the sense of the horrors and burdens our young men and women came home with. We didn’t deal well with it as a nation, and we relegated the responsibility of caring for our own children to institutions like the Veterans Administration.

They do good work over there at the VA, but they are not the community of these kids: we are. We are the ones they come home to. We are the ones whose hearts break if they come home changed or traumatized by war.

Where did John’s mother go for her grief? What did we have in place for Myra Bleill when Josh came home wounded a generation later? What will it be like, God forbid, if our own children or grandchildren are touched by war? And war is not foreign to us now. We have been at war, yet sheltered from it, since 2001. And unless you see through a different lens than I, I see no end in sight.

This is not just about money. This is about commitment. This is about the fact that we have a local vet, an orphan, who needs us as a community to step up and be ready to take care, to mentor, to provide a helping hand back into society. As the local American Legion commander, I see this every day. And I see how the older veterans have stepped in to help. And now the younger ones are stepping in and beginning to lead.

I also see the older veterans, World War II and Korean war-fighters, who are looking to make sense of those days lost on the battlefield and in service to our great country. I hope they will see that their legacy can live on as they prepare our community for the next wounded warrior returning home. We might not see the stress of combat in their physical presence, but they have been through constant stress nonetheless.

I will close with this message: Do something. Don’t let this day and the sacrifice of John Modglin and his comrades go ignored in your heart. Help us prepare, and pray that we are ready when the next day comes.