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Veterans deserve our thanks

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By Becky Cassell, Editor

It would be difficult to ever forget their faces ... faces I watched that day from behind the safe impersonality of my camera's lens.

They were the faces of the families of our local Kentucky National Guard members who were leaving for Operation Enduring Freedom three years ago this month ... parents and grandparents ... children and spouses.

The soldiers' faces were solemn and stoic. They were leaving to do their jobs. Their duty. But it was their families' faces that I remember best.

Taking photographs that day forever changed my outlook on war. It was real. It was personal. These were faces that I knew, not just those I saw on television.

I grew up the daughter of a Navy master chief, who proudly served his country for more than two decades. Dad's work took us as far away as the Philippines. I met many of the men and women who served with him, and I remember several talking about their families back home.

My husband served in the Army for years, traveling to many countries. He served proudly and did so because he loves his country. He would tell you that he literally grew up in the Army and that the men and women he served with are a part of his family. He keeps in touch with many of them still, as does my father.

But I never had to do without either of them during wartime.

When our Guardsmen were overseas, occasionally a family member would call the newspaper office with an update. I remember the worry in the women's voices, but at the same time I heard the pride.

I also recall the joy when the soldiers returned safely. I was there in Louisville when the plane bringing them home touched down. That day, though, the faces I photographed were happy faces.

Our men and women have entered into the military during both peacetime and wartime. Those who served in peacetime served a great purpose and we should thank them for all that they did to keep the peace. Of those who served during times of conflict, most were fortunate enough to return to their families.

But, in years past, some were not that fortunate. They gave all they had for our country. We can never say the right words to thank them or their loved ones enough for their sacrifice.

Next week, we'll all have the opportunity to recognize and honor our veterans.

While Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor military personnel who died in service to their country, Veterans Day (Nov. 11) is the day set aside to thank and honor those still living who have served their country.

When we think of veterans, I think most of us probably think of people our grandfather's age. But that has definitely changed.

Many young men and women in their early 20s are now veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs, there are more than 325,000 veterans living in Kentucky today.

And I thank each one of you.