By State Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville)
“And so my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
This famous phrase — spoken by former President John F. Kennedy — is echoed by the intentions and actions of our country’s service members every day. May is a month for honoring the brave men and women of the past and present who serve our great country in uniform. We just observed Armed Forces Week, May 12-19, and are preparing to celebrate Memorial Day on May 28. I have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices these great Americans make for our freedoms, because the feeling of responsibility to one’s country runs in my family.
I am proud to have served with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, myself, along with many young soldiers during that war. More than 1,532 Indiana service members lost their lives and 300,000 were wounded during that time. It is very satisfying to see our nation now recognizing and paying honor to those who serve. Even though it’s been 36 years since the last of these veterans returned home, Indiana formally recognized those men for the first time in state history this year — dedicating March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Today, I say thank you, Vietnam Vets, for your service.
I consider myself lucky to also be the proud father of two Hoosier service members — one of my daughters served in the U.S. Army at the rank of staff sergeant and my son served in the Marines for four years at the rank of sergeant. He is now an active first lieutenant in the Indiana National Guard. I can relate to Hoosier parents who watch their children put their lives on hold — and, often, on the line — for our country. It’s amazing to see the passion this younger generation has to serve, also during a time of war that has received much scrutiny. During “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Operation Enduring Freedom” alone, we’ve seen more than 6,300 U.S. military casualties. Today, I say thank you, young veterans, for your service.
Still, there are many more we can thank for the selfless sacrifices they’ve made for us — for you and for me, for our families and for future generations of Americans to come. Thank you, World War Veterans, for your service. Thank you, Korean War Veterans, for your service. Thank you, Gulf War Veterans, for your service. Thank you, proud parents, wives and loved ones, for the sacrifices you make. I could go on and on, but the point is simple: Let’s honor these individuals for all they’ve done. Let’s honor them for asking what they could do to make our country a better place — to make the world a better place.
Today, I call on Hoosiers to really take the time to pause and reflect — take a break from your busy lives and ask yourselves, “What can I do for my country?” Not everyone has the calling to serve in the military. But, we can find small ways to thank those who do and remember those who did. Maybe it’s laying a wreath on a service member’s grave. Maybe it’s sending a care package overseas to encourage those currently fighting for us. Maybe it’s literally saying “thank you” when you see veterans or their families out and about. Let’s take the time to honor those brave men and women we’ve lost and those who are still serving us today.
May God bless our veterans, military members and their families.