Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.23.00 AMColumnist shares veterans’ stories and urges students to appreciate their work

In this modern era of technology, where new devices are being rolled off the conveyor belt almost daily and we are constantly connected with the internet, it can be easy to take things for granted. From time to time, we all thank someone for something, whether it’s our parents for guiding us or our coaches for training us.

However, there are some things in our nation, especially in UA, that are ever so important, yet looked over. Take the Constitution, for example. It is the lifeblood of the United States. And it gives us the right to be who we want to be, regardless of whether or not we think about it outside of history class. This is no different for those who fought and died for our nation.

Some of the best and most interesting stories I’ve ever read have come from those who have served our nation: veterans. It’s not only interesting to listen their stories, but it gets me thinking, “How is it that this person who has done such incredible and selfless acts isn’t appreciated more?”

I would like to introduce to you two veterans, of different ages and conflicts, who live right here in UA. First, WWII veteran Colonel Walter Betley, age 94. After the death of his father in an industrial accident at the age of 10, Betley had to work day in and day out to support his family.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go to college, just because I had no money,” he said. “Before the war, my life was taken day by day. I worked in a grocery store for a dollar and a half an hour, and just lived my life.”

However Dec. 7, 1941 was no ordinary day. After hearing of the Pearl Harbor attack, Colonel Betley knew it was time to step up.

“Everyone wanted to sign up after that, and I did with my friends,” he said.

Despite feeling a strong desire to serve, he was rejected by the Navy simply because he wore glasses. After two years, he decided to enlist in the Army, specifically the engineer division because of his background and engineering experience.

In Dec. of 1944 he was sent to France as a combat engineer and a platoon leader to handle equipment such as land mines and bridge construction. Though not often seeing combat, his job was just as important as any other in WWII.

When I asked him how students and citizens of UA can honor veterans year-round, he simply said, “Keep doing what you’re doing. Be appreciative of veterans and do small things for them.”

Second, I sat down with Mitchell Stafford, Captain in the Ohio Army National Guard, age 34. Recently he has conducted many projects concerning veterans, like raising money and even collecting suits and clothing for veterans who are looking for jobs in and around Columbus.

Joining the Coast Guard in 2000, his first job was to overwatch and guard the production of F-16 fighter jets in the US, and the head of his battalion was his high school physics teacher. He was deployed to Kuwait in 2005, and later to Afghanistan in 2012.

Similar to Colonel Betley, Mr. Stafford had a unique job that wasn’t what one would typically think of when considering activity within the military. His job was to train and prepare local Afghan fighters for combat, so that they would be able to handle conflicts without American assistance.

“Every three to four weeks we would get a new group of guys that needed to be trained,” he said. “We worked with the Afghan police, and really we had no idea if one of the trainees would just decide to pull a gun on us at any given time.”

That truly is a job that doesn’t get enough credit. When I asked him how locals could honor veterans in everyday life, his answer was simple. “I appreciate being honored, so continue to do small things for all veterans, not just me. If someone walks up to me and says ‘thanks for your service’ I’m not gonna say ‘get out of my face’. I appreciate the gesture, but I also like my space.”

Veterans really are the heroes of this nation. They always have and always will work for, fight for and die for everyone this country houses. It is almost impossible to truly repay the veterans of our nation, but that’s what makes their job so respectable.

As a nation, we honor veterans on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, which is pretty self-explanatory. There are indeed many ways to honor veterans on Veterans Day, like having a city-wide parade or ceremony, similar to those that take place at Hastings and Jones Middle Schools.

You could simply walk up to a veteran and say “thank you,” and I encourage every student in UA to do something to show veterans appreciation all year round, not just on November 11th.  It might seem intimidating to approach a veteran especially if they are wearing a uniform, but do something to show them appreciation. They truly will appreciate it.