Our Opinion: Veterans owed our lasting appreciation

The remarkable thing about World War II-era veterans such as 91-year-old Doris Merrill isn’t their valor, though they showed that in spades.

Rather, they stand out even now because of a shared trait: a capacity to carry on with the challenge at hand, with hardship, with life – no matter the size of the obstacle.

Merrill, a Nanticoke resident, is expected to represent the Paralyzed Veterans of America during Wednesday’s Veterans Day observance in Washington, D.C. She will lay a wreath at the World War II Memorial.

A U.S. Navy vet, Merrill recently recounted a bit of her personal story for a Times Leader article. During the war years, she married a Marine. A hearse served as her limousine, she recalled of the wedding day in April 1945. Her stateside duty involved helping to monitor the movement of U.S. war vessels, something about which she didn’t dare talk freely then. (“Loose lips sink ships,” remember?)

Merrill began using a wheelchair by the 1950s; despite a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, she routinely participates in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, returning home each year with many medals. “She has been the oldest competing athlete for several years in a row,” said an event sponsor.

After serving this country, Merrill – like so many women and men of her generation – picked up where she left off, contributing to her community. She taught at Wilkes University, Penn State University and, later, Nanticoke High School.

In our view, Merrill’s blend of pluck, patriotism and personality makes her an inspiration. But she is not alone in that regard.

On Veterans Day, we recognize the special mettle within each person who has defended our nation, and our democracy, by donning a military uniform. Each individual, for whatever reason, left behind the familiar to fulfill a duty. For that, we admire them. For sacrifices small and supreme, we owe them.

Veterans, thank you.

For discomforts endured and battles engaged, thank you. For dealing with separation from parents, partners, classmates, friends and normalcy, thank you. For holidays far from home and other family occasions missed, thank you. For confronting horrors, putting up with protocols, withstanding monotony, making do with little, improvising when needed and for taking (and giving) orders, thank you.

For caring deeply about the common good, thank you.

For coping daily with the consequences, thank you.

For your service to the nation in wartime and in peace, we are forever grateful.

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