It was a chilly, blustery day Friday, but that didn’t stop a crowd from gathering in front of the Gloucester courthouse to honor and remember local veterans. The memorial service sponsored by the Marine Corps League, Middle Peninsula Detachment #1317 included participation by the Marine Corps Honor Guard, a posting of the colors and wreaths being placed at the Veterans Wall.
Col. Pete Devlin, who heads up the Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST) at the Marine Corps Forces Command, Norfolk, was guest speaker and challenged the audience to identify the first single image that came into their minds when thinking of Veterans Day.
"I won’t take a poll," Devlin said, "but I would guess that many of you thought of scenes from the big one, World War II…"
Others, he said, may have thought of Vietnam veterans, or those who served in the Korean or Persian Gulf wars. "A few with a historical bent may have thought of scenes from the Civil War or even the American Revolution, considering the connection of Gloucester to that war," Devlin said.
However, he said very few probably thought of scenes or veterans of the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan as a first, immediate response.
According to Devlin, there are several reasons for this. First, he said the word "‘veteran" may be to blame, connoting as it does someone who is older, unlike the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Second, he said, Americans do not refer to the actions in those countries as "war" and that there are few really memorable scenes from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Maybe the scene of the marine tank retriever pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad would be the sole image of these conflicts recognized by most Americans," Devlin said.
A last reason many may not immediately think of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan first is that outside of military communities and organizations, far too few Americans have close personal ties of kinship or friendship to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.