Sen. Gene Dornink: Remembering and following in the example of our veterans

Published 6:14 pm Thursday, November 9, 2023

Veterans Day is this weekend, and I want to focus on it and the importance of remembering those who have served or are now serving, and those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom–protecting our God-given rights.

We have certain dates that remind us of America’s difficult path. We also have memorials, monuments, and history books to help us not forget our past. Some important dates include: 1492 (Columbus), 1607 (Jamestown), 1620 (Mayflower), 1776 (Independence), 1863 (Emancipation), 1865 (Union preserved), and Dec. 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor) to name a few. While we remember the dates, we should also remember the events and the people who lived through them.

Many years ago, I took some of our children to Gettysburg and Washington DC. This particular trip was also my first time there. The sites we saw and what we learned together were so impactful that we still remember them today. Our first stop was Gettysburg. We saw the results of a nation divided against itself and the death and destruction it caused. We saw the battlefield and heard from our guide what happened at the different locations throughout the battlefield. President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the land as a national cemetery for those who died on that battlefield. It was there, on that hallowed ground, where he gave the Gettysburg Address that many of us memorized in history class.

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In DC, we toured the Capitol, admiring the beauty of its structure and impressive interior. Included within the rotunda are eight beautiful paintings that help us remember. This includes four paintings that focus on key times in our early history: the Pilgrims, Columbus, the baptism of Pocahontas and the discovery of the Mississippi. The other four are revolutionary scenes: the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the surrender of General Burgoyne, the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and the resignation of General George Washington from his commission as commander and chief of the Continental Army. This painting of Washington is one of the greatest examples of the humility of a military leader, who despite all the power he had, did not share the same greed and love for power as many other government leaders.

We also went to the World War II Memorial. It pays homage to the many ways Americans served in the fight to end tyranny and restore freedom among nations. We also saw the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial each of which are also very thought-provoking.

While viewing the memorials, we came across an event honoring World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans. They were there because of an Honor Flight program, which flies veterans to DC for the day. This experience is paid for by many generous people who sought to honor the veterans for their sacrifices. Many of those veterans had never been to DC to see the memorials made in their honor. At the ceremony, I saw many older veterans sitting in rows — some with walkers, some in wheelchairs and some still able to walk unaided. The American flag was brought in at the opening of the ceremony and what I saw next, I will never forget. All those men stood up and saluted the flag, some were crying, some were struggling to stand, and some were using all their strength to continue to stand.

The love of country and patriotism I saw on that day from those men is something I will never forget nor will my children who were there. To all serving in the military now and to all that served in the past, I say, thank you for your service, embodiment of patriotism and love of country. We in the Legislature could learn a lot from your example, and I hope and pray that we do.

In November, we have another day to remember and be thankful to God for the many blessings we have in this country. God bless you and your family as you gather to enjoy each other on Thanksgiving.