Never forget

Friday, May 16, 2003

If you watch the war movies, soldiers are overwhelmingly depicted as men and women in their late-20s or early-30s, but in reality that age group is the exception to the rule.

In reality, the soldiers who have fought -- and yes, the soldiers who have died -- are not in their late-20s and early-30s. They are young men and women, fresh out of high school, beginning their life -- tasting, for the first time, the independence they have worked so hard to obtain.

Proof of that lies on pages 12 and 13 of today's special edition "Messages from the Frontline," which celebrates Armed Forces Day.

Study those 68 faces -- get to know them, because it is those young people and young people just like them who have given of themselves so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we've come to expect.

And just what have they given up?

Let the letters tell the story.

The Gazette received letters from military personnel in each of the wars beginning with World War I and going through Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Unfortunately there were no contributions from those serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.) Times have changed, and the letters are now arriving by different means, and for the most part, the letters are from young people who have barely passed childhood.

People like Ryan Nickerson, whose e-mail told his family he had celebrated his 20th birthday in Iraq and promised he would be celebrating his 21st at home.

And people like William H. Fisher, who served in World War I, who's letter was published in the Indianola reporter in 1917. He wrote, "I have always wanted to cross the Atlantic and am still wanting." Fisher also tells of his pride in having heard the guns silenced on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1917.

Then there are the men and women who have chosen to make the defense of their country a career. People like Ryan Brown, who has recently been named a Career Recruiter in the U.S. Marine Corps and Tyler Hayes who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is now on his way home.

Also included is a letter from Nickerson's mother who offers him words of encouragement and gives him news of home. And, an article from Shari Haag, who opens her heart and shares her pride -- and her pain -- in sending a son, son-in-law, and nephew to the Middle East.

The war in Iraq was the shortest in American History. But still, these young men and women have postponed their future -- their family, their career, their jobs, and their education -- to accept a call from their country to go and defend the United States of America.

The sacrifices they have made should never be forgotten. For if they are, we will lose everything they have fought for throughout the ages. Remember those 68 faces. And, when they are back home again, acknowledge them for those sacrifices.

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