How did you spend Veterans Day? We spent ours in Branson, Mo. Why?
Branson has the national reputation of the city that does more to recognize that day than any other city in the United States. In fact, it was not limited to one day, it was a time of remembering which lasted from Nov. 7 through Nov. 12, six days.
Who would attend this time of remembering? It was estimated that 175,000 veterans from across the United States were there. It included all of the services; Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and the other services related to them, and including the women's units.
What do they do for this week? Every day had activities that were appropriate to the day. It is a time when groups get together for reunions. The get-togethers and activities included the veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and specials groups associated with the armed forces.
Here are some of the activities that were available. The Army Air Force band presented three concerts through the week. The shows available through the week had special recognitions of the vets in various ways such as lowering the usual price for attendance, and some of the shows allowed free attendance for the vet and a lowered price for the spouse.
Two of the gas stations allowed a 10-cent per gallon lowered price, merchandise in the stores had discounts for veterans and, in general, everywhere we went, we were recognized and made to feel respected.
It was common that, sometime during a show, the theme song of your service (i.e., "Anchors Aweigh," "From the Halls of Montezume," etc.) were played and servicemen were asked to stand during that song and to be recognized.
The feeling of brotherhood and acceptance was strong. In any gathering, such as waiting for a show to start, there would be many veterans, many of them wearing some sort of recognition as to their service such as Navy, Army, Air Force, etc., and it was easy to begin a friendly discussion.
Questions such as "Where did you serve?" or "How long were you in service?" were good starting points, but I heard no questions such as "What was your rank?" It was a commonality of knowing that we had given some of our life to defend our country. It was a good feeling to share. I hope that we can continue to share that "Freedom is not free."
I am convinced that no one can fully know what it is like to serve your country in the military unless you have experienced it. It was a great experience and feeling to spend the last week among those who "had been there." Our history books have nearly forgotten what happened.
Woodrow Wilson in 1911 said, "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about."
John Quincy Adams back in about 1840 said this: "Posterity -- you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."
I am proud to have been what part of Tom Brokaw called, "The Greatest Generation."
Arris Johnson, Hays, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.