On June 30, the Elko County Courthouse was the site of the local commemoration of POW*MIA Awareness Day. Those in attendance were urged to remember, and renew the promise to find the tens of thousands still missing. A letter written by Cheyenne Leavitt was read, a portion of which urged us to “thank the men and women who fight for us.” However, barely more than 30 people attended the event.
The following weekend, a variety of Independence Day events was held across Elko County, some providing explicit — others more implicit — reminders to thank those who have and continue to fight for our independence.
On Saturday the 17th of July the Red Cross sponsored “Give Thanks to the Military Day” in Johnny Appleseed Park. Cheri Richins, who helped organize the event, did so in order to make certain that those in the military were not forgotten. “Today is to say ‘thank you for your sacrifice,’” Richins said during the event. And yet fewer than 100 local residents attended.
These recent events and their rather modest attendance are likely indicative of an uncertain national feeling about the conflicts that our armed forces are currently involved in. It’s not a lack of patriotism; it’s more a void of what that patriotism ought to look like right now. In the wake of the September 11th attacks and our subsequent military involvement, Republicans, led by former President George W. Bush, kept the war on terror before our eyes on a regular basis. They were vigilant; not only in waging the war, but in making certain that Americans were well aware of their actions.
When Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 and won the White House in 2008, they did so in no small part due to a “promise” to get troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Like many things in politics, the promise turned out to be easier to make than to keep, perhaps because they now realize that the promise was naïve at best. Consequently, neither President Obama nor Democratic congressmen are anxious to talk about the wars, or about the continued sacrifice made by those in the military.
Thus the conundrum, and perhaps with it a corresponding lack of attendance at or interest in local events that honor our armed forces. It’s understandable, but not justifiable. When national leaders — and the media that cover them — are saying and writing fewer things about our military presence abroad, it’s so much easier to take the sacrifice of our armed forces for granted.
Let’s not do that. When we read about local events that honor our military, let’s go out of our way to prove that we remember. Their sacrifice is immense; our sacrifice of an hour of our time to attend such an event is indeed a very small one in comparison.
Members of the Elko Daily Free Press editorial board are John Pfeifer, Jeffry Mullins and Marianne Kobak.