Some people look at history books and see only words, dates and names, while Kelly Goddard sees something much more significant.
"Every page of American history is etched with the sacrifices of veterans," the former state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars told a gathering at the Buckhannon VFW Monday. "We know only at great cost can the concepts of liberty and justice be gained."
The Rainelle native and Navy veteran said the country should ensure that these soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen are cared for in the proper fashion once they return home from their military service.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
Two-year-old Garrett Stark waves his American flag during Monday’s Veterans Day parade in Buckhannon, getting a boost from his grandmother Brenda Shannon, left.
"American veterans earned every one of those benefits promised to them," he said. "These aren't benefits. They are entitlements. Any simple words or ceremony will only ring hollow if, collectively, we do anything less for those who did so much for us."
He urged people to honor their veterans and to hold them in the same high esteem as they do when their favorite sports teams win championships.
"You take a professional baseball team that wins the World Series or a football team that wins the Super Bowl," Goddard said. "They have a big ticker-tape parade.
"They shower them with confetti, and millions of people turn out. These kids idolize those athletes."
He said these same athletes, many of whom are covered in tattoos and piercings, are not the kind of person most parents would want their children to idolize.
"These veterans, these young men, there are your heroes," Goddard said. "Our veterans cherish the virtues on which this nation was founded."
The leaders of the local veterans' organizations honored one of their own Monday, joining with local governmental leaders to proclaim the day as "Jimmy Kittle Day." Kittle, after returning from military service in 1947, helped formed Upshur County's first honor guard as a means of honoring veterans with military rites at their funerals.
Dr. Michael George, the president of Patriot History, asked how a young man who had failed in his final mission as a soldier is still so well-remembered today. He told of how Capt. Nathan Hale was captured, only to later utter those now famous words, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," prior to being executed for spying on the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Before he was hanged, Hale was offered the opportunity to have his life spared if he would swear allegiance to England.
"When he was given the choice to choose," George said, "he chose service to God and to his country over himself."