Saying thank you to our local veterans

By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist

For the past five years, Orange County labor unions have joined with the Orange County Fair and Events Center and many community allies to host a Veterans Day tribute.

The motivation is simple: To say “thank you” as a community and to provide a place where everyone can say thank you to the men, women and families who have in so many ways sacrificed so much to preserve the freedoms we are fortunate to enjoy as Americans.

This Veterans Day it was truly amazing to observe in action the incredible talent and selflessness that make such an event possible.

Union sound engineers volunteered countless hours to provide professional sound for the music and programs. Local educators brought volunteers and supplies to provide an opportunity for children to make original thank you cards for men and women currently serving our country and allies from Mogadishu to Kabul and throughout the world. Union hotel workers and electricians provided vendor support and collected food donations. Union laborers constructed vendor stalls and performed the “heavy lifting” required for the event. And union workers from across Orange County worked from dawn to the end of the day to make sure every veteran was served, every veteran need was provided, and every veteran was honored.

Fellow veterans and local residents brought military vehicles and exhibits to provide us all with a small glimpse into what serving our country entails. And every year, there is World War II music from the ‘40s and dancers in period garb to take us, even for just a moment, to the rare times when our parents and grandparents were able to escape the tragedy of the times and be transported to the promise of what lay ahead.

Our Veterans Day was short on political grandstanding and long on more than 70 veterans’ organizations committed to providing access to good jobs, mental health services and scores of other resources veterans actually need and can depend on.

This year more than 5,000 veterans and community members attended the free event, which has grown in size and stature every year. Attendees and other supporters of veterans, many drawn to the event by the attention of television and radio personalities across the Southland, astonishingly donated close to 10 tons of food and supplies for homeless and underemployed veterans in our community.

A tribute to three local veterans was attended by their families as plaques were dedicated to their heroism outside the Heroes Hall Museum. The compelling stories on those plaques were made particularly moving as the new museum hosted more than a thousand visitors who viewed the current wars photographic exhibit by the personal photographer of General David Petraeus—U.S. Army Public Affairs Specialist Kimberly Millett.

I was struck by the great diversity of Americans who attended the event to honor those who served. Of course there were many veterans and families of veterans. But there were also hundreds of others drawn to the event by a simple desire to express gratitude. They expressed their gratitude to veterans, they expressed their gratitude to the families of veterans, and they expressed their gratitude to each other for taking the time to honor those who have fought and died for the freedom we have to make the greatness of our nation not just a slogan but a reality.

That’s our real responsibility. Not just to show up at an event once each year. Not just to parrot trite slogans. But to ensure that our nation provides liberty and justice for all. Honoring our veterans is one way we can join together, celebrate our accomplishments, and ensure that we remain committed to fulfilling that vision.

Jennifer Muir Beuthin is general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.

Publication Date: November 16, 2017