The commander of American Legion Post 89 in Seymour has a message for any politician who wants to complain about the high cost of providing benefits to veterans.
“It’s up to us to remind the critic about the high cost of being a veteran,” Larry Shelly said during a Veterans Day service Wednesday at the post on West Second Street.
“It is a cost,” he told the crowd of about 100. “It’s blood, sweat and sacrifice. It’s all of those who have produced and protected the greatest nation on earth.”
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The service began with a prayer by post chaplain Gary Dyer, a Vietnam veteran, followed by Seymour High School senior Ariel Bassard singing the national anthem.
Mike Albert of Seymour, who retired from the U.S. Army after 25 years, spoke about his service during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Albert thanked his wife for being patient during all of his time away from home.
“Being a veteran, there is a lot of sacrifices,” the Jennings County native said. “You have to leave your loved ones, and you’re leaving them to take over everything.”
He said his wife didn’t even know what his job was during his time with the Army.
“My job was to clear the roads of roadside bombs,” Albert said. “She didn’t find out until my vehicle struck a roadside bomb. I thought I was protecting her for not letting her know. Veterans do make a lot of sacrifices.”
After the service, Albert said he is not a good public speaker and that concerned him a little when Shelly asked him to speak.
“But I was glad to do it,” he said. “I haven’t met a veteran who is a stranger because we all have something in common.”
Shelly, who also spoke, said Americans should continually endeavor to serve veterans as well because they have served their nation.
“We must honor all of their families and not just with blue and gold star banners but with compassionate hearts,” he said.
Shelly said the families of veterans must cope with wounds, both physical and mental, that veterans bring home.
The American Legion provides services to veterans through a variety of programs, including the family support network, temporary financial service, the National Emergency Fund and Operation Comfort Warrior, just to name a few, he said.
“But sometimes, all that is needed is a simple thank-you directed at the veteran or a family member for his or her sacrifice,” Shelly said.
He said veterans often come home and are unemployed or underemployed.
“Companies should understand it’s smart business to hire veterans,” Shelly said.
And it’s America’s business to make sure the civilian careers of its veterans do not suffer, he said.
Shelly said the needs of the more than 1.8 million women who have worn a military uniform must not be forgotten, either.
“Women are a major contributor to our military readiness, and many have given their lives to the global war on terrorism,” Shelly said.
He also addressed the issue of homeless veterans.
“It is tragic that men and women who allow us to be safe in our homes are often without homes after they shed their uniforms,” Shelly said.
Veterans make this country’s communities better places, he said.
Dyer said the country also needs to do something about the number of veterans who commit suicide.
That number is estimated to be about 22 a day, Dyer said.
“That’s nearly one an hour,” he said.