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Fay and Geri Cunningham at the Sarasota Veterans Day parade in 2009
Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 5 years ago

Our View: A salute to veterans


It’s over. At last. No more TV ads.

But as America shifts, adjusts and endures, the next few days likely will deliver an aftermath similar to Hurricane Sandy — as the pain for the afflicted sets in, there’ll be sqawking, yelling and endless TV reporting on alleged voter fraud and voter suppression.

We’ll pick up and eventually recover and move on.

Let’s hope there is no gloating — throwing gas on the fire.

So in the vein of moving on from the intensity of the past year and reuniting the United States of America, here are two reminders that may help put Tuesday’s results in a bigger picture:

• Monday is Veterans Day.

• Freedom is not free.

Most of us had the opportunity to have our say Tuesday when we slipped our ballot into the electronic scanner. Billions of people in this world do not get that opportunity.

We have that opportunity because of the men and women in this nation’s 236-year history who believed and believe in the cause of liberty. They were willing to give their lives in defense of freedom. An extraordinary concept — that freedom is so precious men and women are willing to die for it. Whatever it takes.

That is why Veterans Day is important. It is especially important to this region — Longboat Key, Sarasota, Manatee — and to Florida. Almost 85,900 U.S. military veterans live in Greater Sarasota-Manatee. And 1.6 million veterans live in Florida, the second highest number of any state except California.

Florida honors its veterans. When you filled out your ballot Tuesday (and in early voting), you had the opportunity to reinforce how we feel as a state about our veterans. The Legislature crafted Amendments 2 and 9 to give property-tax exemptions to combat-wounded veterans and the surviving spouse of veterans killed in the line of duty as a way of paying homage to our heroes.

In this region, we, for a long time, have had many great heroes among us. The late Maj. Gen. Aubrey S. Newman lived here. Newman became famous for his battle cry in World War II. With his Infantry Division bogged down on Leyte Island, Newman shouted: “Get the hell off the beach … Follow me!” …

“Follow me!” became the motto of an Army recruiting poster.

We had the late Brig. Gen. John H. McLain, for whom the Southgate post office is named. Gen. McLain earned 15 medals for his heroism in World War II and Korea, serving with Gen. Patton.

Longboaters will never forget the late Air Force Lt. Gen. James V. Edmundson, for whom the Longboat Key post office is named. In his 36-year military career, Gen. Edmundson flew and survived 107 combat missions in World War II, 32 missions in Korea and 42 in the Vietnam War. He survived Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Guadalcanal. He earned three Distinguished Service Medals, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight Air Medals, three Legions of Merit, the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Two former chiefs of staff of the U.S. Army Command in Europe made their homes here: Retired Lt. Gens. Rolland Heiser and Howard G. Crowell Jr. And on Tuesday, Manatee voters re-elected Larry Bustle to the Manatee County Commissioon. Bustle, a Naval Academy graduate, flew 138 combat missions in Vietnam for the Air Force, the last 68 of them over North Vietnam.

The list of heroes is miles long. They’re everywhere: Marty Samowitz, 99, Longboat Key, the oldest surviving Marine at Iwo Jima; John Saputo, Skip Sack, David Novak, Longboaters, Marines; Harvey Noyes, Longboater, Army Air Corps, World War II, B-17 gunner; Bill Kelley, Longboater, U.S. Navy, D-Day survivor, Omaha Beach.

Marina Jack will be filled with more than 200 heroes Wednesday when the Marine veterans celebrate the 237th anniversary of the Corps.

We admire them all for their courage, sacrifice and commitment to the cause of liberty. As they all can tell you, there is nothing worse than war. It is hell on earth. With its costs so devastating and immeasurable in so many ways, it should never occur. But since the time of the Book of Deuteronomy, greedy, maniacal despots have placed themselves above people, rejecting the value of life.

That’s another whole subject. Instead, we want to express our gratitude to all of our veterans. And a good way to do that is to quote the words of our nation’s first president, when George Washington sent his farewell address to the Revolutionary War army:

“He presents his thanks in the most serious and affectionate manner to the General Officers, as well for their Counsel on many interesting occasions, as for their ardor in promoting the success of the plans he had adopted — To the Commandants of Regiments and Corps, and to the other Officers for their great Zeal and attention in carrying his orders promptly into execution — To the Staff for their alacrity and exactness in performing the duties of their several Departments — And to the Non-commissioned officers and private Soldiers, for their extraordinary patience in suffering, as well as their invincible fortitude in Action … To the various branches of the Army, the General takes this last and solemn oppertunity of professing his inviolable attachment & friendship — He wishes more than bare professions were in his power, that he was really able to be usefull to them all in future life; He flatters himself however, they will do him the justice to believe, that whatever could with propriety be attempted by him, has been done. And being now to conclude these his last public Orders, to take his ultimate leave, in a short time, of the Military Character, and to bid a final adieu to the Armies he has so long had the honor to Command — he can only again offer in their behalf his recommendations to their grateful Country, and his prayers to the God of Armies. May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of Heaven’s favors both here and hereafter attend those, who under the divine auspices have secured innumerable blessings for others: With these Wishes, and this benediction, the Commander in Chief is about to retire from service — The Curtain of seperation will soon be drawn — and the Military Scene to him will be closed for ever.”


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