Vietnam veteran Doug Wean, of Mt. Morris, spoke at the David L. Rahn Junior High’s Veterans Day program on Nov. 9 and again at the Oregon VFW’s recognition on Nov. 11 in Oregon.
Wean, the recipient of a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts, reminded both audiences of the significance of the day, which was originally called Armistice Day.
“Today I don’t come before you to salute war. I come to celebrate and remember our warrior veterans: those from before and those serving today,” he said. “The 11th day of the 11th month at 11 a.m. We celebrate the 100th anniversary since the battlefields of World War I fell silent.
“We don’t mark this day, every year, as a celebration of victory. We mark this day instead as a celebration and remembrance, of those who have made victory possible.
“It is the day, that we keep in our minds the brave men and women of our nation, generations of them, who above all else, believed in, and fought for, a set of Ideals.
“Because our veterans served with selflessness, because they went when called our country still stands, and our founding principles, still shine.”
Wean told the audience at D.L. Rahn that, as a Mt. Morris native, he felt a sense of deja vu standing before the stage where he graduated from both eighth grade and high school.
He recounted his family’s service in the military.
“My dad Chuck Wean Sr. enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and made the invasions of Guam, Iwo Jima, and Guadalcanal in the Pacific War.
“My older brother Chuck enlisted in the Navy, during the Korean War and served with the Fifth Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia.
“My middle brother Jim enlisted in the Navy following his graduation from high school and served at the Naval Officers Candidate School, Newport, Rhode Island.
“I enlisted following my graduation and was trained as a Navy Hospital Corpsman and served as a medic with the Third Marine Division during the heavy combat, in the TET Offensive of 1968.
“My son Jeff Wean, of Algonquin, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2001 and is a combat veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom — Kuwait and Iraq 2003.”
Wean stressed the importance of honoring the service of veterans.
“We honor our veterans throughout this weekend with parades, cemetery visits and ceremonies like we’re having today,” he said. “In August of 1940, Sir Winston Churchill, in a talk to the House of Commons during the Battle of Britain, gave a radio speech and said, ‘Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed, by so many, to so few.’
“This quote remains so true to Americas veterans. From the beginning, since 1776, roughly one percent of our population, has ever served in the military.
“This ‘spirit’ of selfless service is what makes America great: it is what makes America free, and is the spirit of the American veteran: duty, honor, and country.
“Since 1776, the American Revolution, we have had 47 million Veterans in service to our country. They are from the plains of Montana, to the inner cities of Chicago and New York. They are from the small communities and farms of the South and West, and they are from the Rock River Valley, and as such, they are, our own.”
Wean asked veterans in the audience at Rahn to stand and be honored and then asked family members of veterans to stand.
“We will take a moment of silence to remember them,” he said. “Can you see them? We can see their faces, through the mist of time.
“Can you hear them? We can hear their voices, savor their laughter and remember, who they are.
“You see, they have carried our flag, without stumbling, and have fallen, carrying our flag, and they have left their Godly life, with our flag, to drape their coffins.
“Sacrifice means nothing without remembrance.”
Recalling his own experience, Wean said, “You know, sometimes I still hear the call of battle, but they are just memories now, but they still echo, those memories.
“What I discovered over 50 years ago today, was an unbidden love, born on the battlefield as it has been born on every battlefield, in every war, this country has ever fought.
“We survived, for each other, we died for each other. We shared our fears our hopes and our future dreams with each other.
“We didn’t pick each other, we were delivered together by ‘fate’ and our military services. But I know them in a way, that I know no other men. I have never given, anyone such trust.
“We were willing to guard something, more precious, than our lives. They would carry my reputation and my memory, if I were to fall in the battlefield.