The following is an edited version of Luce’s address to Quincy’s Ancient Lakes Elementary students during the celebration of Veterans Day
What is a Veteran?
A Veteran is anyone who served honorably in the active military, navy or air service. Additionally, there are four special groups of veterans: War, Combat, Disabled and Retired.
What is my experience as a Veteran?
I served 20 years in the Army and retired as a Major in 1995. This makes me a Retired Veteran.
While I was in the army, I served in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War in 1991-1993, which also qualifies me as a War Veteran.
I was never in combat, and I was never seriously injured or wounded, so I am not a Combat Veteran or a Disabled Veteran.
Besides being in Saudi Arabia, I also served in Germany, Georgia, New York, Oklahoma and Utah as a field artillery officer, instructor and teacher.
One of my most exciting experiences was to be able to shoot missiles while I was stationed in Germany.
Why do we remember and honor Veterans?
Veterans Day is celebrated to thank our veterans for their service to our country. We remember and honor our veterans because they protect our country and the values and privileges we have here.
They did this by putting their lives on the line every day. And they do this to protect us, whether or not we appreciate it.
But they also provide aid and hope to our friends around the world, and to people who cannot defend themselves against hunger or violence.
We honor our veterans because:
They fought for our freedoms and risked their lives for us. Without them, we would not have the freedoms we have today. They did this for all of us.
Many of them struggle when they return to regular life, and need our help to readjust.
We can honor them by respecting them by smiling, shaking their hand and thanking them. Inviting them to a lunch or coffee. Volunteering or donating to a Veterans organization.
What is Taps?
Back in the days before phones and radios, generals used bugle calls to talk to their armies. There were bugle calls for everything: wake-up, meal call, mail call, church call, charge, mount-up and even for lights out.
Taps is a bugle call that was created 150 years ago by a United States general during the Civil War to mark the end of the day, telling his soldiers it was lights-out time. Shortly after that, it was also used at a military funeral on the battlefield instead of the 21 gun salute, because the commander was worried that the shooting might start the battle up again.
It is a solemn and respectful bugle call. Today, it is used to mark the end of every day on military posts, and to honor the dead at military funerals.
Congress officially recognized Taps as the “National Song of Remembrance.”
Now to end this Veterans Day assembly, all please stand and remain quiet and respectful during the playing of Taps.
Rod Luce is a retired school counselor who lives in Quincy.