Friday’s editorial applauds our veterans and urges readers to remember them this Veterans Day:
Thousands of soldiers are coming home from Iraq this year, after nearly nine years of conflict and more than 36,000 U.S. casualties, including 4,400 fatalities. Many other brave service members, however, continue to serve in Afghanistan, not to mention the thousands of others based around the world, in South Korea, Japan, Turkey, on ships in the middle of the ocean and more places than we have room to mention here. Today we honor their heroics, their sacrifice and their devotion to the ideal that is our nation.
Those laudable traits do not fade when the uniform is taken off. Here on the Grand Strand, we have been blessed with a vibrant community of veterans who do not hesitate to lend others a helping hand in ways big and small. We can think of numerous examples of veterans’ continuing service, from those who dedicated years to transforming the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base into its current thriving community, to the innumerable vets who organize and participate in charity events throughout the year, to those who turn out every Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day to remind us of those who have secured our country’s continuing freedom. Just Thursday, reporter Alan Blondin told the story of retired Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Chapman, who will be playing 11 rounds of golf today, from sunup to sundown, to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Older veterans have been highlighted in particular lately through an absorbing and inspiring collaboration between The State newspaper and S.C. ETV, which has been documenting the stories of “South Carolinians in WWII.” The series has been sharing the largely untold stories of S.C. residents during the war since early this month. Some of the tales are humorous and unexpected, like the soldier assigned to guard a captured winery from his own troops, but most relate the harrowing tales of everyday heroics and horror that are too often brushed away by veterans as unimportant.
Chris Carawan of Columbia, 86, put into words why we need to hear such stories, both to remember those who were there and to remind us just how horrendous war is. Talking about it is “a release, really,” he told The State. “You don’t want them to think you did anything that everyone else didn’t do. But some of the stories we’re telling should be told. … War is just pure-T hell.”
New episodes of the fascinating program are still in the works and we look forward to seeing them soon. As we get further from World War II, the time for recording these stories is disappearing. As The State reported, about 184,000 South Carolinians served in the war and thousands more veterans have moved here since then. But WWII veterans are dying at a rate of about 1,500 a day nationally. Seven of the 82 veterans featured in the series have died since being interviewed.
Our letters to the editor today share the stories of just some of our local veterans. Needless to say, there are many more. If you meet one today, it’s a good time to shake a hand or two, offer thanks and sit down to listen to what it has taken to safeguard our nation for the past 235 years.