Hometown heroes preserve freedom

Vicky Smith
Managing Editor
@pinkwritinglady

Since 1954, Americans have recognized Veterans Day as a time to say “thank you” to those who have fought to preserve freedom in the United States.
At Cameron University, students and faculty members joined veterans and active duty military personnel for a ceremony at 1 p.m. at Veterans Grove on Nov. 11.
At 2 p.m., a Remembrance Walk took place, in which participants walked the Aggie Mile, where they observed the display of over 6,000 American flags on campus.
Staff Sergeant Eric Smith, a military science instructor, has had four deployments to Afghanistan and understands the sacrifices made by those who serve.
“I’ve spent about four years of my life deployed and away from my family,” Smith said, “so for me, it’s a lot of time. I’ve missed birthdays and holidays and events with my family and my kids, so it’s sacrifice for myself but also for them.”
Smith said the families of those who serve can be deemed the nation’s “unsung heroes.”
“As the service member, I deploy or I go away for training,” he said, “and I miss them, but they miss me as well.”
ROTC cadet Robert McCoy, a psychology major, is fifth generation military. His father served 22 years as a field artillery officer in the United States Army.
Like Smith, McCoy has respect for the families of veterans.
“Their families sacrifice a whole lot,” McCoy said. “Personally, it affected my whole life, not just my dad’s life … Having that support system in the family was such a big deal for him.”
McCoy said it is important to actually understand the real sacrifices veterans and their families have made.
“It’s not only giving up your time,” McCoy said, “but it really is giving up your life honestly for a certain period of time … They can even go as far as giving up their peace of mind; a lot of our veterans come back with PTSD.
“Sometimes when you go down range, a piece of you can be left there, so it really is giving up your life in order to support the Constitution and defend what our nation’s all about.”
According to McCoy, the training he has undergone as a cadet has given him a greater appreciation for veterans.
“I want to stress that we are not in the military fully yet,” McCoy said, “so we don’t know exactly how it is to be, but [in ROTC,] they try to simulate that as best as possible.
“I see how much I sacrifice in my own life, and I know that these veterans have sacrificed so, so, so much more than I have.”
Junior history major Cara Belcher, who is also an ROTC cadet, said her father also served as a fielder artillery officer in the Army, and her brother has been to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Belcher said she thanks veterans when she sees them throughout the year.
“I will normally shake their hand and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” she said. “But I always get really choked up.”
She said when veterans would like to share their stories, students should listen.
“[Sometimes,] they need someone to talk to,” Belcher said, “and I think everyone will benefit from their stories.”
McCoy said although each soldier’s story is unique, he believes each solider wants to make a difference.
“It really means a lot when you take the time out to hear how they believe they made an impact on this world,” McCoy said, “—to leave it better than when they came in.”
Sergeant Smith said there are many ways people can thank veterans.
“If you’re a business owner, you can hire a veteran,” Smith said. “You can volunteer some of your time to veterans’ programs in your community. You can increase awareness through social media.”
According to Smith, a new social media trend that demonstrates veteran support is “Greenlight a Vet.”
“You replace maybe a light in your office or your workspace,” he said, “and just change it out to a green light bulb, and they’re calling that ‘Greenlight a Vet.’
“You can take of picture of your green light, and then post it on social media: #greenlightavet … You could do [that] to show that you appreciate the service on a daily basis as opposed to just one day a year.”

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