This is the 99th year that Americans have remembered those who served our country in uniform. Since that first Armistice Day on Nov. 11, and since 1954 as Veterans Day, we have been finding ways to say “thank you” to those who have and do still serve.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has broadened the tradition of Veterans Day to include appreciation of both veterans and military families for the entire month of November.
From veterans telling their stories in Chicago and the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., to veterans visiting our own schools and local houses of worship and temples recognizing their own veterans, we are thanking those from every war and every conflict who have fought and stood for our freedoms.
We all know many veterans. There were as many as 20 million veterans in 2016.
My father served in the Army. He didn’t serve in a war, but instead was stationed in Alaska.
My uncle was in the Air Force during Vietnam and, thankfully, returned home in one piece.
My father-in-law also served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He, too, returned safely.
My close neighbor, Joe Macejik, served in the Air Force as well; he completed his service as an Airman First Class.
When Joe first enlisted, he had basic training in Texas. The military sent him to California to school and to Illinois for special training. In Savannah, Georgia, he went into strategic air command, which took him many places around the globe from England to Africa.
One of his missions as an airman was to keep a watchful eye on the Russian periphery.
“I didn’t know at the time how important our job was because it was highly classified,” he said.
Joe is proud to see so many young people in the service that are giving of their time to help the country.
To Joe Macejik, Veterans Day means there are people like himself that give so much of their lives to help this great country maintain its freedoms.
“To help it stay the way it is, we want it to remain the greatest country in the world,” he said.
On Veterans Day, Joe looks up and says “thank you,” he said.
This year, he planned to go out to breakfast with other veterans from St. Ann Church in Channahon.
Joe remains proud of his service to the Air Force and to his country.
“I am happy to be here. I love my country,” he said. “If it were to start over again, I would do the same thing.”
Don’t forget to thank a veteran this month.
• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and topics in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.