Did you know May is Military Appreciation Month? Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are both set aside to honor our military members living and dead, but I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know about Military Appreciation month.
Wisper Internet headquarters in Mascoutah, Ill. is just a stone’s throw (poor choice of words) from Scott Air Force Base which is home to 35 mission partners including several major Armed Forces commands including U.S. Transportation Command, Air Mobility Command, Tanker Airlift Control Center, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and many more.
With those major commands comes major leadership brass. According to its website, Scott AFB is home to 39 general officers and senior executive civilians. The base has a total working force of 12,900 comprised of 5,000 active duty, 1,500 reserve, and 1,100 guard service members. They are buoyed by an additional 5,300 civilians serving their country.
The base is the largest employer in Southwest Illinois and boasts a $3 billion impact on local economies. Needless to say, they are kind of a big deal in the greater St. Louis area, and Wisper thanks our neighbors for their service.
Wisper itself employs several veterans and we acknowledge them for their service to our country and for bringing their expertise, leadership, and core values to our company. We would also like to give a big shout-out to the military families supporting the servicemembers.
I’d like to shift gears for a moment to another group of veterans whose service days were decades ago, but no less deserving of our gratitude.
There is a popular photo on social media that usually shows up around those Memorial and Veteran’s Day holidays of two World War II soldiers. One is carrying his wounded buddy to safety while the injured man is firing away at the enemy with his 1911 .45 pistol.
The caption usually reads something like “the vets puttering around the VFW were once tougher than we will ever be.” I paraphrase, but you get the idea, or you’ve seen the picture. Another favorite of mine is a photo from inside a landing craft on D-Day (June 6, 1944). The caption reads: “Bravery doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. It means you go anyway.” Did anybody else just get goosebumps?
Last week, as part of my PR duties for Wisper, I had the privilege of visiting VFW Post 9763 chartered in 1949 in Creal Springs, Ill. I know, you’ve never heard of that town. This leads to a side note. Wisper cares about all of these small towns you’ve never heard of because that’s where we live too.
I was in Creal Springs to deliver Wisper’s donation check for the post’s sponsorship of a veteran and guardian on the next southern Illinois Honor Flight taking off in June. For those of you not familiar, Honor Flight is an organization that takes veterans on a day-long trip to Washington D.C. to view the various military and war memorials erected to honor the Armed Forces.
The Honor Flight leaves early in the morning and touches down in D.C. where the vets are bussed to the National Mall, Pentagon, etc. then they head back on planes to their hometowns so they can sleep in their own beds that night. What a wonderful opportunity for these veteran soldiers, coasties, sailors, seamen, marines, and airmen.
I was greeted at the post by Quartermaster Bob Owen, his wife Carmel, and Senior Vice Commander Albert Dagner. Both men were proudly sporting their Vietnam Veteran hats and the meme I had seen dozens of times flashed into my mind. Even though their years of saluting and fighting had passed almost 50 years ago, Bob and Albert still snapped to attention as we sucked in our guts and hid them behind the giant novelty Wisper Internet check. The photo-op turned out terrible because we were all laughing about it!
Decades after their official service had ended these two men and thousands like them dedicated to countless groups are still serving their fellow veterans, their communities, and total strangers. Selflessly giving, holding dinners, dances, raffles, and pancake breakfasts to raise money for their brothers in arms to enjoy a day of honor, recognition, and remembrance in the nation’s capital.
I didn’t get a chance to hear any good “war stories.” In fact, Bob and Albert were more excited to tell me about their next fundraiser. I totally agree with the caption of the meme. These men have served their country and have done more in their lives to help and protect others than many of us ever will. They answered the call!
The VFW or American Legion aren’t just places to have a beer, play Bingo or attend a wedding reception. Wear those hats with pride guys, keep those veterans’ organizations alive (and suck in those guts).
Wisper thanks you for your past service and everything you are doing for the future!