Veterans, Navy reservists share sense of commitment
Military men and women of today often look up to veterans, recognizing their service and sacrifice.
But at a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Navy Reserve at Naval Station Great Lakes on Saturday, it was active-duty reservists who got the applause from a group of distinguished veterans.
Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Elliott said one of his goals in mingling of approximately 45 local veterans with his reservists was to show the veterans the safe hands the nation is now in.
Though all of today's military men and women come from a variety of backgrounds, one fact unites them all, Elliott said -- they volunteered.
"There's no doubt in my mind the country will be fine," Elliott said. "We're just facing different challenges."
Army Sgt. Allen Lynch of Gurnee, a Vietnam veteran and one of two surviving Medal of Honor winners in Illinois, said he's tiring of the pedestal "The Greatest Generation" of World War II and all former conflicts are put on in contrast to today's soldiers and sailors.
All have made the same commitment, and one that other aspects of a dividing nation can learn a lot from, he added.
"We learned one thing -- all this ... baloney that politicians use to separate us is just that. We learned to act as a team," Lynch said. "This country is being led astray by a lot of people who benefit by driving us apart."
Darnell Jones, who lives at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, was the first to start the applause among veterans when Elliott introduced his current staff at Naval Station Great Lakes.
Jones said his mother wouldn't talk to him at first, after he volunteered for the Army in 1968 after Robert Kennedy's assassination.
It turns out he was sent to Germany instead of Vietnam.
He doesn't consider himself a hero like those whose lives were on the line in Vietnam, but Jones agreed with the day's speeches that everyone who embarks on a life in military service is making the same commitment.
"I did what I was told and got an honorable discharge," Jones said. "I had two good friends who were killed in Vietnam."
Nikko Reyes, a Navy reservist from West Chicago, said he learned a lot from Jones during their conversation over lunch. What was most exciting to him was the thought that a lifetime of other experiences did not detract from the bond Jones felt for those with whom he served.
Dunn Myron of Chicago, who served in the Army from 1981 to 1985, said he felt proud that young people today were still serving with the same sense of honor as when he did. He agreed that the entire nation can learn a lot from the sense of combined purpose military people share.
"It's a lifelong bond and friendship that no one can come between," he said.