Opinion

When you think about veterans, also think about our right to vote | Tish Gregory

Even a second grader can tell you the word “veteran” comes before the word “voting” in the dictionary.  But they probably don’t realize the significance of that order other than it is grammatically correct.

We are exercising our right to vote with the arrival of our ballot in the mail. Hard to believe it took almost 200 years (1775 – 1971) for everyone over the age of 18 to be allowed to vote, a necessary and key component in maintaining our freedom and democracy over all these years.

The Continental Army, by defeating England in the American Revolutionary War, established our right to representation by allowing white men of property to vote. Union and confederate soldiers fought a bloody Civil War opening the way for black men to vote.  Members of the Women’s Suffragette Movement fought imprisonment and bloodshed so that women could vote.  Finally, from the Vietnam War came the realization that 18 year olds being asked to fight and make the ultimate sacrifice should be allowed to vote.

On Memorial Day in May, I make a point to visit veterans in their “foxhole,” better known as VFW No. 1263 at 416 Burnett Ave. S. After all the ceremonies are over, these vets come together to break bread, raise a glass and share in one another’s company.

This is also one day that the “friendlies” (aka the public) are invited to join them.

It is here that I met Carlos Almeda, currently the state commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  His humble demeanor hides the fact that he performed one of the most dangerous, if not gutsiest jobs of the Vietnam War – a tunnel rat.

Carlos introduced me to Glenn Bowers, a World War II Navy vet. Glenn, the proud recipient of nine Bronze Star Medals, is also the recipient of skin cancer resulting in the loss of one eye, due to serving on Navy ships for many years.

It is here I also met Paul Babcock who lost his hearing to malaria during the Korean War. Paul’s recent passing reminds us that it won’t be long before we lose this rich history of previous wars and personal stories of those who fought them.

The main focus of the VFW is to provide and look out for their “band of brothers and sisters” not only socially, but mentally and physically.

But if you check out their website, www.vfw1263.com, you will see they are also very active in the community.   Their calendar shows monthly breakfasts, weekly dances and the occasional dinners open to the public.  You also find information on scholarships and prizes provided for grades 3-12 in essay contests.

Further, they begin collecting Christmas cards in November to be handed out to veterans at the VA Hospital in Seattle. If presented to them, they will properly dispose of your worn out flag. And, they proudly provide honor guards for fallen heroes.

Many of us who never served or personally know a veteran can mistakenly think it was “their” war, not “our” war.  But if you reflect on how your right to vote came about, it might become more personal. So on Nov. 6 – vote. Then on Nov. 11 thank those who made it possible.

The doors of the foxhole will once again be open to “friendlies” from 11 a.m. till closing. Why not drop in and get to know these interesting veterans. Their stories help us to realize there is flesh and blood in every war and healing continues long after a war is over. I guarantee you a very humbling experience.

Tish Gregory is a free-lance writer.  She can be reached at tishgregory@aol.com

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