Honoring Our Veterans

By Congressman John M. McHugh

" data-medium-file="https://oswegocountytoday.com/wp-content/uploads/headshots/mchugh.png" data-large-file="https://oswegocountytoday.com/wp-content/uploads/headshots/mchugh.png" class="size-medium wp-image-15593" title="Congressman John McHugh" src="http://oswegocountytoday.com/wp-content/uploads/headshots/mchugh.png" alt="</p>Congressman John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor)" width="250" height="281" />
Congressman John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor)

Every year, on November 11, we have the privilege of honoring our nation’s veterans – those men and women who know the true meaning behind the words “courage” and “sacrifice,” and what it means to choose country over self.  Veterans Day affords our country the opportunity to remember each and every veteran of our Armed Forces.  It was an Act of Congress that originally designated one day each year for our nation to pay tribute to the men and women who have worn a uniform in defense of our nation, and it will be the actions of each one of us that will keep the day filled with meaning for every generation that is to come.

Today, America’s living veterans come in all ages, races, and from all walks of life.  Some fought on the beaches of Europe, others in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and still others in mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq.  They were stationed at bases in Korea and Japan, on ships and submarines patrolling faraway waters, and across the United States.

Here at home, America’s veterans might be a neighbor or a coworker or a face around town, seemingly living their lives just like us.  For me, this is what is often most remarkable about our nation’s veterans – the quiet dignity with which they live their lives – seeking no recognition or honor for their incredible service.

I met one such hero this October.  Jim Woodworth was a Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army who was shot down over South Vietnam in 1968.  He sustained physical injuries that kept him in the hospital for over a year, and other injuries he has carried with him ever since.  Although Jim certainly met the requirements for a Purple Heart, which is given to service members injured or killed while serving with the U.S. military, it had never been officially awarded to him due to a clerical error many years ago.  On October 22, I had the honor of rectifying that mistake and, at a ceremony in Madison County, Jim was finally given the honor he deserved.

Throughout my years in Congress, I have been fortunate to meet many veterans like Jim from across New York.  I have learned that although we call them heroes without hesitation, they say they were just doing their job.  And although we might marvel at the incredible feats they have accomplished and the hardship they endured, they’ll point you to the actions of a buddy they served with or to the soldiers of today as to what you should think of as heroic.

On November 11 and each day throughout the year, it is up to every one of us who live in a safe and a free nation because of America’s veterans to remember who our true heroes are in this country.  Sometimes this means big moments like awarding a forgotten medal or attending a parade for a returning soldier.  Other times it might just be a small moment, like a simple ’thank you’ to someone who has served.  We owe these moments, big and small, to our veterans to ensure that they know we will never stop thinking of them as our heroes.