2009-11-11 / Editorial

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JESSICA FINCH Associate Editor

REACHING OUT — On Sept. 22, 2004, my friend Jim sent an e-mail from Iraq. He had just returned there after a two-week leave at home. He called the subject line, “Back in hell.”

“There’s so much I miss about home and can’t think about here because it’s too depressing. Everything from no lines for the phone to hugging people is something that I can’t wait to experience again,” he wrote.

He then said his main reason for wanting to come home was to tell his friends how proud he was to have them in his life and how his friends made him a better person. Those words were unsettling to me because it should be the other way around. He was the one worth being praised and honored; not us. We are just the ones who made sure he had a great party when he was home and sent care packages.

Our friendship started years earlier at Oswego State College. He was a member of the Army Reserve when Sept. 11 happened. I remember a cell phone being passed around our circle of friends after learning he was going to New York City to assist. We wished him well and looked forward to his return.

After graduation, he was assigned to a tour of duty in Iraq. During that time, I remember always keeping my cell phone nearby in case he was able to call. I heard from him more than I had expected and was honored he thought our friendship was worth the few minutes he had free to use a phone after waiting in line.

But so much happens over there we never hear about. In my friend’s case, he was involved in a roadside bombing. Fortunately he wasn’t severely injured but does suffer from some side effects, including hearing loss. He returned home, got a job as a teacher and met his wife. They marked their one-year anniversary last month.

Today we can talk, text, and e-mail as much as we want, but I haven’t taken advantage of that. I am embarrassed that I have taken our friendship for granted. And because I don’t have to wait in line to use a phone, I will call and thank him for that, and so many other things, this Veterans Day and throughout the years.

STAND UP AND APPLAUD — I believe if most people stopped to think about it, they, too, would be embarrassed about how they treat our veterans. I know all those people who are off from school or work on Nov. 11 aren’t spending the day remembering veterans or those now serving. I was embarrassed by actions involving a soldier last week when I was invited to the Buffalo Airport to greet a soldier who was coming home after a tour in Iraq.

She was dressed in Army fatigues, and her family greeted her at the gate with patriotic balloons and banners. She is a soldier, and a mother, who chose to leave her son behind and serve our country. Her family, who had been waiting months for her return, got stuck in traffic caused by an accident on Sheridan Drive and arrived just in time to greet her. It was an outburst of love and happiness and could not be misconstrued as anything but a soldier returning home.

But after the moment ended, I realized not one person sitting nearby or waiting to go through security applauded this brave woman. I was disgusted. So I will applaud and honor her and all our armed forces and veterans on behalf of The Bee Newspapers.

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