My biggest hero has always been my grandma, Emma Marie Burger Mahaney. When I was in second grade, we had to make paper flowers for our grandparents. Having only a grandma, I made her the most flowers out of anyone in my class and talked constantly to anyone who would listen about her and how she was in a war.
She was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and decided to join the United States Air Force as a nurse during the Korean War. She traveled overseas as a young woman to Japan and South Korea, where she was stationed for months. She is braver than I will ever be — going out to foreign lands to defend our freedom and our country.
Portrait of Emma Marie Burger Mahaney in her uniform painted during the Korean War
I believe firmly in thanking our veterans, not just on Nov. 11 but every day. While war is a horrible part of our world, it is, unfortunately, a part of it. Right now, there are people fighting for my freedoms, rights and ability to sit here, in college, and write my opinion on Veterans Day.
Veterans Day lands on the historic day which, during World War I, an armistice was declared on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. We spend Nov. 11 not only honoring, remembering and respecting veterans but also holding onto the hope and promise that our ancestors held in 1918 — that one day, we will end all wars.
Our veterans serve and sacrifice for the common good and all of us. It is important for us all to take the time out of our day to remember our veterans, living and deceased, who gave all they had for our freedom.
Many people think the United States is the only country to celebrate Veterans Day, yet it is celebrated around the world. Australia, Canada, Britain and France pay tribute to their veterans every year on or near Nov. 11, as well.
Locally here in Albion, the Albion Veteran Project was completed in 2002. Organized by Leslie Dick, Robert Geyer and Guy Vitale, interviews were originally taped for local history archives and for Public Access Television.
“Veterans of all conflicts and branches of service participated, sharing their experiences for researchers and future generations,” the Albion District Library Webpage states.
The tapes have been in the process of being digitized and saved in DVD format. The completed versions of the DVDs are available for checkout at the Albion District Library.
On campus, the college is committed to helping active military members and veterans obtain an education. The college works with pairing an incoming active military or veteran student with a veteran advisor, such as Mathematics Professor Darren Mason. Mason was a Corporal/E-4 in the Army National Guard from 1986-1994, according to Albion’s website. Having a faculty member such as Mason on campus able to assist and advise Veterans or active duty military members can serve as a comfort to any service member who may need advice or help as they journey into college from serving our country.
While it’s important to thank our veterans, it is important to also remember that not all of them may want only a thank you, as former Army Ranger Rory Fanning explains. Many veterans may be upset or angry that wars are still going on, despite their service and efforts to end it.
“There is no question that we should honor people who fight for justice and liberty,” writes Fanning. “Many veterans enlisted in the military thinking that they were indeed serving a noble cause, and it’s no lie to say that they fought with valor for their brothers and sisters to their left and right. Unfortunately, good intentions at this stage are no substitute for good politics.”
It is still in good fashion to say thank you to any veterans you may see on Nov. 11 at ceremonies or celebrations honoring them. If they don’t wish to simply be thanked and instead talk more in-depth about why they want more, such as Fanning does, let them. If you become uncomfortable that’s not always a bad thing; ideas and critical thinking are generated through talking about things that may make us uncomfortable.
This Veterans Day, keep an open mind about all of the freedoms and rights our country has awarded us. Remember the families — the wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers — who won’t have their family member present because that family member gave the ultimate sacrifice — their life for our freedom.
Photo courtesy of Robert Mahaney