Veterans Day: Pay tribute with your time

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Eaton
  • Utah Air National Guard JFHQ/PAO
My grandfather was a hero for many reasons. Flying combat sorties in his B-25 Mitchell bomber over the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII was only one of them, but an important one nonetheless. He went to war because he was asked to. Not for a career, not for a paycheck, but because his nation needed him, plain and simple.

A few weeks ago, the Utah Air National Guard and the local community lost another hero, 96-year-old Retired Brigadier General Roland Wright. He was a decorated combat pilot and leader with a distinguished military career spanning more than three decades. 

Around this time last year, we renamed our Air National Guard base in General Wright's honor. He was able to attend with family and friends, make poignant remarks, and give television interviews. It was impressive to watch, though not surprising, considering this is a man who at age 92 went flying in a restored version of his beloved P-51 Mustang.

Every veteran is important and deserves recognition, but if you haven't engaged with our Greatest Generation veterans, you are running out of time. According to the National WWII Museum, a WWII veteran passes away every three minutes. The gravity of that loss is yours, mine, and ours as a nation. If you haven't recorded your family member's story, or visited a Veterans nursing home, or stopped to thank the elderly stranger wearing a baseball cap with faded squadron insignia, now is the time.
I have no doubt these two great men are exchanging stories and smiling down on loving grandchildren like me. I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to learn from them about the fabric of our nation and the character of warriors past. There's a reason men like this are considered in a league of their own, and whether you have a minute to spare for a handshake, or a few hours to flip through a photo album, let Veterans Day be a reminder and catalyst to take the opportunity to listen and say thank you while that opportunity still exists.