'Real people. Our people.'

By Terri Harber November 12, 2012 11:24 am

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald The Veterans Day gathering at the Baker County Court House ends with Taps performed by Baker High School student Phineos Oglesbee.
S. John Collins / Baker City Herald The Veterans Day gathering at the Baker County Courthouse ends with Taps performed by Baker High School student Phineos Oglesbee.
By Terri Harber

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Jim Thomas, adjutant for the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Anthony Lakes post, spoke Sunday morning to about five dozen residents in front of the Veterans Memorial outside of the Baker County Courthouse.

Today, Monday, is the legal Veterans Day holiday this year. Sunday, however, was the true day of observance, which occurs during the 11th month, on the 11th day and at the 11th hour.

Veterans Day is devoted to remembering all of those who served, living or dead. Thomas devoted a significant portion of time talking about those who died while serving their country.

“I have been to this memorial countless time over the years and it shames me to say that I never took the time to really look at the names and connect them to people I know,” Thomas said while standing in front of it. 

He imagined how loved ones might remember veterans of various eras. The list contains the names of 35 World War I veterans, 90 World War II veterans, seven Korea War veterans and 11 Vietnam War veterans.

“Brothers, sons, fathers, family, friends. Real people. Our people,” Thomas said.

Here’s one illustration of grief Thomas provided: 

“Every June 6 granddad has a few too many drinks and wonders what would have happened if his brother had come home from Omaha Beach too.”

Thomas also talked about the two service members connected to our community who died overseas during the War on Terror.

U.S. Army Cpl. Jessica Ellis was a combat medic serving in Iraq when she died in 2008 as a result of a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad. 

Her parents, Steve and Linda, lived in Baker City at the time of her death. 

Army Spc. Mabry Anders, died on Aug. 27 of this year in Afghanistan. He was killed by an Afghan soldier he was training. 

The U.S. and NATO aim to have the Afghans take over security of by the end of 2014— when troops are scheduled to leave.

Anders attended high school here and his mother and stepfather, Genny and Troy Woydziak, are residents.

 Anders also was the first soldier from our community with whom Thomas had a personal connection: The young man attended school with Thomas’ children.

Anders’ name was added to the Afghan-Iraqi Freedom Memorial in Salem on Saturday. 

Thomas also talked about veterans being shown more respect today than during the Vietnam era and, to a lesser extent, Korea.

Many who served didn’t talk about it because others “tried to make them feel embarrassed about doing what their country asked.” 

Today, “classrooms full of school children often ‘adopt’ a service member serving overseas and share a part of their life with someone protecting America,” he said.

“We honor those who went to far-off lands, to places they might not even have been able to find on a map — but they went. Whether they were eager or hesitant, volunteers or draftees, believed in the cause they were fighting for maybe didn’t understand at all — but they went anyway,” he said.

“They went because they would never have seriously considered disregarding their country’s call. They understood what being an American is all about.”

VFW Chaplain Jerry Hunter led prayers.