By Ryan Gueningsman
When considering what to talk about and in what format to present her thoughts on Veterans Day, Major Patricia Osmon of Delano realized since she will be at school speaking to students who are missing class, she might as well touch on some different school subjects.
“Since you are missing out on some class time today, and since I am a school board member, I would like to visit some of those subjects you might be missing out on,” Osmon said, starting with history, a subject she said she struggled with the most.
Osmon said President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day Nov. 11, 1918, to remember the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. Formally, the war did not end until later with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
“In 1938, that Nov. 11 became a legal holiday,” Osmon said. In 1854, Congress amended the name, changing it to Veterans Day. The meaning has evolved to be a day to honor the veterans of America collectively and as individuals.
“Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day,” she said. “Veterans Day is celebrated to thank living veterans and members of the military for their service; in contrast, Memorial Day honors those who have served and died.”
Osmon said the numbers vary by the millions, but said it is most commonly reported there are 24.9 million veterans in the United States military.
Of those, Osmon said:
• 1.5 million are women;
• 2.3 million are from World War II;
• 2.7 million are from Korean War;
• 7.6 million are from Vietnam;
• 4.5 million are from Gulf Wars;
• 5.6 million are from peacetime only;
• 78,000 served in three wars; and
• 5.5 million are disabled.
Osmon said the first image that comes to mind in this day of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq is one of the infantry soldier holding an M16, engaged in battle.
“Veterans are everywhere,” Osmon said, and explained that veterans are much more diverse than that.
Veterans may have served a variety of roles in their military service, she said, and there are many places one will find veterans where you least expect them. So, what makes them special?
“The simple answer is that they put their life at risk in support of the president’s national agenda, which is to protect the American way of life,” Osmon said.
In order to be a member of the military, she said, one must make a number of sacrifices. Service in the military means time away from family, birthdays missed, and holidays celebrated abroad.
“It means young men and women scoring touchdowns or performing plays and not finding their parents in the audience,” she added. “Serving in the military consistently challenges you to do things outside your normal/typical experience, and you carry this with you for the rest of your life.”
Osmon used “art” to paint a picture for those in attendance, telling a story of a soldier who had returned from Afghanistan in June.
She described him as “happy-go-lucky,” and said he is the nicest guy one will ever meet and is expecting his first child with his wife any day.
Osmon said the man is an average guy who loves football and the Vikings, and he works as a radiologist technician. The soldier said it’s been hard for him to adjust to being back home.
He said it’s awkward talking about his experiences with family and friends, and said part of him wants to talk about it, yet he feels they will never quite grasp what he experienced, so he chooses most of the time not to talk about it.
“Certain memories haunt him,” Osmon said, adding that it wasn’t the traumatic injuries he saw or men dying on the operating table, but instead, it was when he stood in a double line of soldiers who formed the corridor linking the hospital to the medevac helicopter.
“The double column of soldiers would salute as the flag-draped coffin passed from the hospital morgue to the air transport to take them home. He said he stood at attention saluting, watching the coffins pass, thinking of the family members that have just lost a father, mother, brother.”
Osmon said she could see how the experience marked him.
“He went from all smiles and talk of the new baby to having a faraway look as he described the memory of those who went home under a draped flag,” she said.
Osmon said each veteran has their own stories and memories.
“It marks them and they carry it with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Osmon concluded her remarks with a personal story about a training mission in Georgia called Operation Golden Medic, which resulted in the “best thank you” she could have ever received at that moment.
“Many stories of bravery and heroics are being told today, but not every veteran’s story is a battle story,” she said.
Osmon said veterans are marked by these experiences, and this is why recognition is appreciated.
“It is why this day means so much . . . it is because we have seen . . . we have experienced . . . we have sacrificed,” she said. “We may not want to talk about it, but it did happen. We did see it, we did experience, it, and we did it for you.”
She encouraged students and those on hand to look through the veneer of those around you and simply say “thank you.”
“It is in part by their service that we retain our position on the international stage and enjoy the luxuries that come along with being an American,” Osmon said. “The American way of life.”
Osmon is a graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, ME, and holds both masters and doctorate degrees from Baylor University in physical therapy.
She has a total of 17 years of military service and currently serves with the 452nd Combat Support Group at Ft. Snelling as chief physical therapist.
She is also employed by the Meeker and Wright Special Education Cooperative as a physical therapist, and serves as an adjunct professor at Dunwoody Institute in its physical therapy assistant program.
In addition to all these roles, she also serves on the Delano School Board.
The Veterans Day program also included the presentation of Patriot Pen essay winners, and the presentation of the Walter Grotz essay scholarship.
The winning essays will be published in next week’s newspaper.