They walk among us. People who have made our history.
Most days, you probably couldn't pick them out of a crowd. They wear the same clothes, walk and talk the same.
But they aren't the same.
They jumped out of planes into battles, flew training missions against live ammunition and somehow made their way up Omaha Beach, through Europe and back to Alabama.
They are our veterans and their stories are remarkable, but often forgotten.
This week I covered the annual Gathering of Eagles at Maxwell Air Force Base. The veterans always tell me what a big deal it is, but I think sometimes I forget. But, I have to say listening to a little lady named Elizabeth "Betty Wall" Strohfus was quite an experience.
I told one public affairs guy earlier this week that I picked her from the list because she sounded interesting, because she was one of the few women on the roster and because she has red hair -- like me. Maybe that's like picking winning football teams based on their colors, but it worked in my favor this time.
She was certainly spunky and was excited to talk to me, oddly.
Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Fisk was also here and I asked him if he thought it was important for veterans and retired military to tell their stories to current and future generations of service members.
He said it was their duty. He said that many people have a negative perception of the military, but have never served. Fisk said that to counter that perception, veterans should share their stories, the good and the bad, because it is their story to tell and one that needs to stay fresh in American minds.
I also talked to Buck Lowe this week. He landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day and "only God knows why" he lived to tell about it. It's hard to think about the battles and the friends he lost, he said, but if you ask him, he will tell you about it. Those were his brothers on the beach that day, brothers he won't forget. He still has bad dreams and sees the faces of those that died, but he that battle had to be won, he said.
Fisk, Lowe and Strohfus were all just Americans until something called them to serve their countries. Some raised their hand to volunteer, others were drafted. But, ordinary people they were not, as they did what their country asked of them.
May they, and others like them, continue to walk among us.
I grew up in the military. Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years, dad was a navigator on B-52s, among other things. One grandfather served in World War II, uncle is retired Navy, other grandfather and great-uncle served in Korea and a cousin is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Currently, I'm the military reporter for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana. Previously,
As a military kids, we moved all over. As an adult, I've traveled all over and moved for work. But now, I'm putting down roots in Montana with my boyfriend. We just bought a house and are slowly but surely making it our home. We have more land that we know what to do with at the moment. Now we're getting a garden started, tearing down walls and having loads of fun at what we call the Homestead.
In a part life, I did PR for the guy who built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, social media for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, before that, edited two military technology magazines for a publishing group in the DC area and before that, I was the military reporter (among other things) at the Montgomery Advertiser, covering Maxwell Air Force Base, the Alabama National Guard, veterans and anything else military related in the area. And in between all of that, I leave town, preferably the country, whenever possible. It all started when I spent a semester in New Zealand.