This week, two symbolic anniversaries take place. Wednesday marks the 235th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps and Thursday is Veteran’s Day.
Wednesday does not hold a great deal of meaning for me personally other than its significance in the Revolutionary War. However, among my many enjoyable experiences here at CSU has been the opportunity to meet several prior Marines who served during the same period I was enlisted in the Air Force.
Blake Miner met his lovely wife here at CSU through a mutual friend, student and Army veteran, Dave Gleason.
Gabe Bedingfield is another prior Marine and friend. You have probably seen him and his younger brother, Caleb, walking around campus; Gabe is the little one at 5 feet 10 inches. Caleb, also a veteran, may be the missing link, from my perspective he has to be at least 7 feet tall.
I met most of my fellow veterans through the initial creation of the CSU chapter of Student Veterans of America orSVA, which is now organized under the title Student Veterans Organization of CSU or SVO.
Donny Armstrong is a friend and prior Marine and currently serves the SVO as Treasurer.
According to the CSU Veteran’s Services website, “The SVA is a network of student veterans groups from college campuses throughout the United States. It works as an advocate for student veterans at the local, state and national levels. CSU is the first SVA member in Colorado and currently the only member in the state.”
This year the SVO is hosting a Veteran’s Day 5k race as a fundraiser for the Veteran’s Scholarship Fund at CSU. I would like to see CSU turn out in droves to support the event. You get your workout in for the day, you support a good cause and you get to feel better about supporting not only the country’s veterans, but also the veterans with whom you attend classes.
The U.S. military has become exceedingly efficient in some ways at carrying out the timeless tradition of war; however, my generation of veterans, better equipped and some would say better trained than any war time military in our nation’s history, have experienced the post-war burdens that are not pleasant to discuss.
Personally, Veteran’s Day means something to me because the country will in some form attempt to recognize our sacrifices and losses.
Army Sgt. Blake Stephens, 25, husband of my friend Erin –– an Air Force veteran–– died when four roadside bombs simultaneously hit his vehicle, killing him and his driver. Blake left behind another widow grieving the unfulfilled dreams of a family with the man she loved.
Elizabeth Loncki, 23, was an Air Force Explosives Ordinance Disposal member. I personally trained Liz on multiple firearms before the deployment that took her life when the car bomb she and two fellow techs were defusing detonated.
Adam Hermanson, 25, a friend from my time in the Air Force and a veteran who was electrocuted and killed in his shower in 2008, left behind his wife Janine, another Air Force veteran who still struggles with losing her warrior-husband in such an unbelievable way.
These are just a few of the losses I have personally experienced, but these conflicts have cost veterans more than our benefits will ever repay. For every individual hurt or killed, they left behind families of both blood and bond forever scarred by the loss. Many of you have lost family members to these conflicts as well. I understand your pain.
The cold hard numbers from iCasualties.org:
Iraq since 2003: 4427 killed, in some ways these men and women were very lucky. Some of the 31,902 wounded will never regain the ability to function.
Afghanistan since 2001: 1370 killed, 7266 wounded.
Total: 44,965 killed or wounded as of 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon. By the time you read this, one and possibly both of those numbers will have increased, affecting dozens of people who love and support the victim.
This Wednesday and Thursday remember your veterans. I’d like to specifically thank some other friends of mine and veterans you may know, Joe Beals, Army; Kelly Dowd, Air Force; Alastair Johnson, British Army; Gared Bowers, Air Force; Derek Brannock, Marines.