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Advertise on the Tentacle

August 22, 2003

Wings Of Freedom Is More Than An Airshow

David 'Kip' Koontz

Many know that last weekend Frederick was host to an airshow because they saw and heard the planes, even if they didn't attend the show itself.

However, most do not know that one part of the show is a tent set up to honor veterans sponsored by Frederick Community College. While food and drinks are served, the main purpose of the tent is to give these men and women an opportunity to meet, reminisce, share their experiences and, of course, have a seat out of the sun.

It is a pleasure to volunteer to help at the tent as one gets to hear all kinds of war stories, from tales of heroics, to tales of what went on during leave, all of which are interesting to say the least.

Some of the veterans come every year and, while you hear the same stories again, it is still a treat to hear them first hand from someone who lived them.

This year, while handing out some Navy paraphernalia (key chains, mouse pads and the like) at the request of the Navy and Navy Reserve recruiters, I was given the opportunity to hear from an Army infantry soldier who served in Korea.

He said that even though he was "Army" he would be happy to take a "Navy" key chain because if it were not for the Navy he would be dead.

He went on to tell a story about how he and his unit were trapped on a beach with the North Koreans advancing, pushing them to the shoreline.

Fortunately, when the unit thought all was lost, a platoon of Navy boats was maneuvered into position allowing them to be transported off the beach and onto the safety of a U.S. frigate.

These are not stories that everyone gets to hear and that is a shame. It is the actions of these men and women who do indeed help protect the very freedoms we value.

A touching moment came this year as a World War II vet passed through the food line and pitched a dollar to the tent's donation jar (helps defray the expense of the tent, tables, food and so forth, though not at all a requirement) and later came back saying he was sorry that was all the cash he had to give because he felt he needed to give more because he had such a good lunch and good time.

When another volunteer said something like, "Sir, that's okay, the donation isn't really necessary and you already donated so much more anyway," tears welled up in the gentleman's eyes as he simply said in response a quiet, "Thank you."

Toward the end of the day a woman with two children, a little girl and middle school aged son, came to the entrance of the tent and after explaining that her husband was on active duty in Iraq, asked if she and her children could come in out of the sun.

As the three mingled with the vets and their families, the mother came to us and thanked us profusely for hosting the veteran's tent as it "meant so much."

She went on to explain that her son had come to believe that no one appreciated those who serve in the military after hearing repeated criticisms directed toward the men and women who are in service.

She said he told her that he felt "so much better" after seeing that there are those who do value veterans and those currently in service.

During discussion afterward, we just felt it was so sad that boy had developed the notion that no one appreciated veterans or those in service to begin with.

We determined that the service men and women may be receiving criticism about decisions made by civilian leadership - which really is not right, because, even if one doesn't agree with the civilian leadership or the decisions they make, those in service are still doing their duty to protect our country and again, those principles for which we stand - something not everyone is willing to do.

Once a year for two days, a small group of Fredericktonians gets to hear stories from men and women from all over about their service to our country, to meet true heroes and learn history from those who lived it.

Who knows, maybe next year you can help out, too?

Many of those men and women who visited the tent thanked us for "being there," for "making their day enjoyable," and the like.

In all actuality, it is we who should be thanking them.

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