Veterans Day is today and although I never served our country myself, I have always tried — both personally and professionally — to support those who serve and have served in our nation’s armed forces.

Gary Nager Editorial

I know I’ve mentioned it before in these pages, but I was 14 years old when the draft ended, but had I been 18, my birthdate was number three on that last draft list.

But, had I been called, I probably would have done everything I could not to serve. My father, who served in the U.S. Army shortly after the Korean War ended, and seriously considered a career in the military, called me a coward. I told him that I had been reading a lot about the Vietnam War, which the U.S. exited the same year the draft ended, and that I couldn’t understand why 3 million U.S. men and women were deployed to Southeast Asia to fight an almost-20-year war that didn’t seem to threaten our country in any way.

I definitely was influenced by the anti-war music, movies and media of the day. Like many young people, I had problems with our government forcing people who didn’t want to be in rice paddies and foxholes having to risk making the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The people I never had a problem with, however, were those who actually served. I saw the news reports of U.S. military members who were spit at when they returned home, even though so many of them were forced into their service. But, even if they chose to wear the uniform, it wasn’t their fault that their job was to kill the enemy and sometimes napalm villages, as they had to deal with not only Vietnamese soldiers but also the guerilla tactics of the Viet Cong.

Even though I may have been in the minority of young people during that era, I believed that every person who served deserved to be thanked and honored for their service, not spit on, attacked or simply forgotten. As I grew from sometimes angry teenager to adulthood, I met many wonderful military vets, not only from the Vietnam Era, but also those who served in World War II, Korea and, like my dad, during peace time.

And yes, I always shook their hands and thanked them for their service, not just to our country, but to me personally. Just because I didn’t want to carry a gun myself didn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate what these folks did — whether it was their choice or not — to keep the country I loved (and still do) safe and strong. 

Once I had purchased the Neighborhood News, I knew that I would do just about anything I could to help the local people who served and the organizations that support them. I have given free ads (see pg. 11 of our latest issue), written stories and attended dozens of events honoring our nation’s heroes and I still pledge to always do so.

One of the things I’ve tried to do is come up with a way to ensure that no U.S. Military Veteran should ever have to be homeless. I heard that in Hillsborough County alone, there were between 2,000-3,000 homeless vets, which actually made me sick to my stomach.

I even pitched my idea to State Sen. Danny Burgess, who was the executive director of Florida’s Dept. of Veterans Affairs at the time. Danny, who still serves in the U.S. Army Reserve, liked my idea and promised to help me get this unique program off the ground, especially since it also will provide jobs for these heroes.

The fact that we haven’t gotten started on my idea yet isn’t anyone’s fault and it will always be one of my goals to make it happen, but I hope that everyone reading this will at least join me in honoring all of those who serve or have served.   

The Bohannon Family mourns the passing of Dale (2nd from left)

In Memory Of Dale Bohannon

Even though I only personally met him a few times, I have known local Realtor Dale Bohannon’s parents, Doug and Annette Bohannon, for more than 20 years and I was appreciative that Dale’s sister Laura let me know about Dale’s sudden passing from a massive heart attack at the too-young age of 56. Dale is a lifelong Tampa native who is survived by his wife Melody and three children, ages 12-22. Rest in Peace, Dale. 

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