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Samantha Jones

Sam's Notebook

Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com

Thank you, veterans

Friday, November 16, 2018

Each year, Carroll County Newspapers makes sure to have a presence at the Veterans Day ceremonies in our community. We cover school assemblies from Green Forest to Eureka Springs and citywide commemorations like the popular Veterans Day Parade and rifle salute in downtown Eureka Springs. Weíve done that since I started working here in 2014, but I wanted to learn even more about our local veterans this year.

Thatís why Iíve been working on a series of three stories describing the experience of veterans you can find right in your back yard. With the gracious help of American Legion Post 9, I interviewed veterans who served in nearly every conflict from World War II to the ongoing War on Terror.

World War II veterans Rocky Whiteley and Jimmie Weatherford showed me the different roles veterans have played in war, from flying combat missions to building a 300-foot loading ramp for a train. Cold War veteran Ferguson Stewart told me how his military service has affected him long after he resumed civilian life, saying he built a career in technology after learning to repair microwave systems in the Army.

The Vietnam veterans really hit me in the heart, talking about their experience overseas and what it was like coming back home. At the end of World War II, veterans were welcomed back with open arms. That wasnít the case for Vietnam veterans. Vietnam veteran Patrick Kirby didnít even serve in Vietnam ó he worked in radio communications in Ethiopia ó and he was called a baby-killer when he left the airport.

Most of the veterans I talked to couldnít speak too much about their experience overseas, instead focusing on the camaraderie among soldiers. They said they formed a little family during their service, and that social structure didnít exist when they returned home. Thatís one thing I never considered ó not only the family atmosphere in the military but how it feels to have that taken away. I canít imagine how it is to experience such horrors and then be expected to return to a normal life, especially without that support system you spent years building.

We also talked about veterans support services and how those services could improve. Some of the veterans I spoke to have had good experiences with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, while others have had the opposite experience. I was struck by how much these veterans supported each other. Even if one of them had a great experience with the VA, they believed their fellow veterans who didnít have such good luck. They all called for more support, whether thatís better healthcare ó physical and mental ó or a more developed social support.

Today, we are running the last story in the series. Itís about what Veterans Day means to those who have served our country, and Iím so honored to share that with our community. In reading the series, I hope you come to a better understanding of what our veterans experience. I hope you can show them compassion and care. Mostly, I hope you are proud to live in a county full of so many brave veterans.

I know I am.