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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Remember Our Veterans

In another week we remember those who answered the call. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice was signed that ended The Great War, the war to end all wars.

Nov. 11 was first known as Armistice Day, a day marked around the world to remember and honor the people who fought in World War I. It evolved into Veterans Day when, sadly, it became apparent we would need more wars to end all wars as we started to number the World Wars.

Once one of the major holidays of the year, Veterans Day seems to be recognized only by banks and government offices these days.

For me, it was actually a sitcom that provoked me to try to remember the meaning of Veterans Day. If you’re old school, you may recall two November 1978 episodes of the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” There was, of course, the classic Thanksgiving episode, still arguably the funniest half-hour of television ever produced. (“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”)

But there was another episode that aired early in that month about a vintage World War I plane that buzzed the skies above Cincinnati. The pilot was a veteran who eventually takes the station’s news reporter for a flight and holds him “hostage.” His only demand: That the people of Cincinnati honk their horns in acknowledgement of Veterans Day, which had even by the late 1970s, lost too much of its meaning in the minds of too many people.

So, years later when my own kids were born, I remembered that message and began a family tradition that continues today. Every Veterans Day since they were babies, my kids have said thanks to their grandfathers for their service to their country.

My kids know Grandpa Thomas Deming served in the Army during World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery and valor in 1945, when he drove a series of harrowing nighttime journeys over the Apennine Mountains of Italy to re-supply his unit. Behind enemy lines, he had to drive with no lights to evade capture or worse.

My dad, Grandpa Joe, joined the Air Force after he graduated Passaic Valley High School during the Korean War. He was stationed in Guam, where he repaired and refueled planes. But he did have one other job that he felt was as important as any other on that tropical island: He drove the truck that sprayed the mosquitoes and snails. “Big as dogs,” he would say.

Grandpa Thomas has since passed away, but his grandsons will always know about his service to his country. Grandpa Joe, almost 90, still has lots of stories to tell.

Try to remember to thank a veteran. You’ll be surprised how meaningful that small gesture will be. The battles waged by our country may have been controversial at times, but the veterans who answered the call have never been anything less than patriots who answered the call.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.