DALLAS – You are part of an elite and select group of American patriots, said Lt. Col. Douglas Etter to the nearly 200 local veterans who gathered Saturday for an annual Veterans Appreciation Event and Expo at Misericordia University.
This is not my opinion, it is a mathematical fact, he said. Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the United States military at any given time. That means 99 percent of our fellow citizens rested comfortably in their beds. They went about their daily business without fear, and peacefully raised their families because you were willing to endure extreme hardship, long separations and stand between those who would do us harm and the soft, tender flesh of our fellow citizens.
As the keynote speaker of the event, hosted by state Rep. Karen Boback, Etter passionately recalled his experiences as a military chaplain during his two combat tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Shaking his fist, he described the thunderous earth shaking of rocket and mortar attacks and the blasts of improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.
For those of us who have tasted it, the experience of combat is unlike anything we knew or will experience again.
Local agencies and organizations were on hand to offer information and support.
As she presented pins to the veterans, Boback thanked them for their sacrifice.
She recalled the message her father, Michael Passarella, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II, passed on to her. He said to never let an opportunity go by to thank a veteran.
Wiping a tear from her eye, Army veteran Gina Svoboda was clearly moved by Etter's speech. Having served four years during Desert Storm, Svoboda, of Jackson Township, vividly recalled her experience.
You forget about the sense of camaraderie, she said. And there were times I, too, took a bath in a wash tub and ate cold, sandy food.