Sunday Spotlight: Eighth-grader nails the meaning of Veterans Day

Published on Saturday, 11 November 2017 20:43
Written by Bob Montgomery

Staff Writer

“Why do we celebrate Veterans Day? Why do we sleep safe and sound at night? Why are we allowed freedom? Why does the vast majority of our life depend on what we can do, our capability and free spirit? Why are we able to wander carelessly wherever we want?

“Well, I’ll tell you why: Because of these men and women here, these strong, fearless, and keen spirits sitting right in front of us. Most of us can’t imagine what they have been through and even if we could we were not there to see what they had to face. Those near and far whether it be the Marine Corps, the Navy, Air Force, Army or Coast Guard, all have dedicated their lives for this world to make sure there is a world we can grow up in.

“So I ask you, the next meal you eat, the next drink you drink, the next piece of clothing you buy, the car that you can afford to drive, the house you live in, the shoes you walk in, and every single thing you cannot live without, ask yourself, ‘How much am I worth?’ Because of them you must be worth a fortune, you must mean something to them if they are able to go out and fight and sacrifice their lives just to save ours.

“God has placed them in our lives for a reason - they are our guardians. About half of us don’t know why we celebrate Veterans Day, but just look around, almost everything we do is because of them. Most people don’t think this holiday is important and they just take it for granted. But on this holiday we honor, we care, we celebrate, and we give thanks to those who fight for others when they can’t fight for themselves.

“That is why we celebrate Veterans Day.”

The above was written and read aloud by Autumn White, an eighth-grade student at Immanuel Lutheran, during a Veterans Day program held at and put on by the school Friday morning. White, her teachers, the school administration and her fellow students at the school get it, and the veterans and their family members who were there were very appreciative of what was said and done during the program.

Among the veterans who attended the program and all of the other events held this week was Omer Deabay, 85, who attended each with his wife, Pauline. A Korean War Army man, Deabay was blown up and went unconscious before realizing he was alone and not with his company, wounded and lost. He became missing in action, an MIA, for three days before being found by friendly troops.

“Now that I’m over my PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) after 60 years, I’m starting to enjoy talking about some of the things that happened to me,” said Deabay. “Sometimes I blank out (his mind wanders back to his military experiences) during veterans programs and elsewhere, then I come back. We lost more than 40 percent of us in our company on three different times in nine months.”

And those are the memories he goes back to when he does daydream or should it be called a day nightmare.

“Until I opened up recently, my wife and kids never heard my story,” said Deabay. “At one point, my wife went two weeks thinking I was missing, before she was told that I had been found. We have to remember and thank those we left behind, those who were here worrying about us in the service. I don’t know what I would have done without my wife when I returned home.”

And that included thinking about suicide on Deabay’s part, on several occasions.

The families suffered, too, in their own way and this was another item brought up by Vern Koch when he spoke when the Manross Library held it’s annual Veterans program Thursday morning.

The family left behind didn’t have it so easy either, in not knowing day-to-day how their loved one was doing during their duty, one of a wartime combat situation. And then to try to help or cope with them when they did return, the PTSD aspect.

Beverly (Woodard) Strong lost her brother, Frederick, during his service in World War II, and she was 6 years old when the family was told of her big brother’s loss. Beverly would attend some veterans programs with her late husband, Ralph, but it was only recently that she could attend on her own. Now you see her at many of the events pertaining to the military and that includes several this past week.

“Four or five years ago, I finally said I’m going to do it,” said Strong. “Now I’ve decided to represent my brother and all the veterans past and present. My brother’s birthday was yesterday, the Marine Corps (242nd) birthday, and he was a Marine. He would have been 92 years old. He died on Feb. 6, 1944, and we never got the news he was killed until two months later.”

John Greenlaw served in the U.S. Army between 1969-1971, which included a year’s stint in Vietnam. He took off an entire year when he returned after his service before going to work. And during the years he worked for Barnes Group, you’d see him walking nearby on Memorial Boulevard during his lunch hour, reflecting on things.

“I walked the boulevard to think,” said Greenlaw. “Now I can talk about it. I meet with a group, our unit started reunions 16 years ago.”

John was sitting at Saturday morning’s veterans program at West Bristol School with his wife, Barbara,  silent as he took the program in, most likely with some Vietnam experiences passing through his mind from time-to-time during the gathering.

Deabay, Greenlaw, Strong and a great number of others saw Bristol display its true colors - red, white and blue - this past week with its various heartfelt veterans programs.

Contact Bob Montgomery at 860-973-1808 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General News on Saturday, 11 November 2017 20:43. Updated: Saturday, 11 November 2017 20:46.