By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel
Armed Forces Day had its origins in 1950 just after the U.S. War Department was renamed Department of Defense.
Unlike Memorial Day, which was designated to remember and honor service men and women who died in combat, and Veterans Day which fetes all who have served this country, Armed Forces Day is not somber. At many bases and communities it is celebrated with parades, open houses and sometimes air shows.
For the past nine years our community has observed the day with a luncheon and program. This year it will be Saturday, May 18 at Community Church of Douglas starting at 11 a.m. It’s our opportunity let veterans, current armed forces members and perhaps future ones know we appreciate their service on all our behalf.
It is no surprise local community organizations quickly have rallied to give support. They are joined by many individuals and businesses who contribute to this event. If you want to be part of something good, there is room too for you to lend a hand.
This year’s featured speaker will be Quang Nguyen of Prescott, Ariz. A native of South Vietnam, he was six years old during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Seven years later, when the war came to an end, Nguyen was one of some 100,000 Vietnamese allowed to come to the U.S. for asylum. He left home at age 13 knowing he might never see his parents or siblings again. He has a fascinating story to tell — and tremendous love for this country too.
We are at our best when we honor and recognize the good work others are doing. A few kind words and expressing gratitude can mean more than we ever realize.
For recipients, it’s a reality check that says, “Yes, I’m doing the right thing and it is noticed.” It builds morale and relationships.
Attending the lunch is important because most of what matters in life is just being there. Tickets, at $12 for adults, are available at Chemical Bank in Saugatuck and Vicki’s Family Restaurant in Douglas. Veterans are invited free but still need a ticket.
If you wish to buy lunch for a veteran, your contribution will be more than welcome. Or you can help offset the cost of bringing the speaker here. Your generosity goes well beyond the luncheon itself, because any remaining funds will be donated to the West Michigan Veterans Assistance Program, which supports vets and families throughout the year.
Many men and women who did one or more tours of duty in Southeast Asia came home to catcalls, were spit upon, called names more — all of it demoralizing and negative. We cannot begin to compensate for the past wrongs of others, but I know a handshake, a look in the eye and a few words of gratitude will mean a lot to these veterans.
Contributions can be made out to “S-D Armed Forces Day Luncheon” and mailed to Jack Sheridan at P.O. Box 731 Douglas, MI 49406-0731.