Veterans have volumes of war history to tell

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 12, 2001

Monday, November 12, 2001

The Natchez Democrat

I thank God that for many of us our impressions of war come

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from film depictions and written accounts.

For the dozens and dozens of local military veterans, war is

real and part of their life experiences.

Individually their stories are interesting. From the person

who saw heavy action and was captured by the enemy to those who

served far from the battle lines, each tiny vignette tells a small

bit of history.

Collectively, however, stories of the veterans in the Miss-Lou

stitch together decades of history.

From the skies over 1943 Germany to the frigid winters in Korea

to the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq, our community

is filled with walking history books.

Although most of these men and women would deny it, all are


And all deserve our thanks.

But more than our thanks, veterans deserve our attention.

Too often we don’t ask questions of these brave people. Too

often we forget to say &uot;thanks&uot; for their service to

protect our country’s freedom.

And too often, we simply don’t listen or show an interest in

learning about their experiences.

Want to know about history? Sure, you can read a book about

it. But only by talking to a Veteran can you truly get a sense

of what war is really like.

History books detail the political struggles that kept U.S.

commanders from running the Vietnam War as they saw fit.

But such books rarely tell the personal side of Vietnam.

Veterans alone can communicate how surreal war is. One second

you’re talking to your buddy next to you. The next second, he’s


Only veterans can describe the strange feelings of loneliness

and the utter joy at seeing the red mail bag drop from the helicopter;

inside, written proof the world back home still existed and the

people there were thinking about you.

It is through the vivid recollection of veterans that a true

understanding of history comes to life.

Sadly, the years are catching up to many veterans – especially

those who served in World War II. Time is doing what the Germans

and the Japanese were unable to do.

Tom Brokaw dubbed the men of who fought during World War II

as our nation’s &uot;greatest generation.&uot;

And even Brokaw’s description fails to adequately give enough

credit and thanks to those men.

Some estimates show that America is losing more than 1,000

World War II veterans each day.

And with the loss of those great men, America loses thousands

of personal, first-hand bits of its history.

Volumes of history have already been lost. It is imperative

that we preserve what we can today before more is gone.

Teachers and civic clubs should invite veterans to gather together

and tell their stories. Can you imagine how enthralled students

would be to hear a veteran’s true war story?

We must not forget the past.

If you know a veteran, ask them if they mind talking about

their experiences.

And, if they are willing, record the conversation. Perhaps

even a fraction of their generation’s greatness will rub off on

our future heroes.

Kevin Cooper is editor of The Democrat. He can be reached

at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail to