The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.


By Elaine Slater Reese, Special For The Quill

Growing up on a beef and grain farm in Western Illinois, I often heard the word VETS. To me, it meant that an animal was sick, that Dad's efforts had not been productive, and it was time to call ole Doc Crossland, our beloved veterinarian.

If for some strange reason, he wasn't available, we called the Carthage vet. Those two vets were calm and knew how to work on all challenging situations.

War was an ugly word in history books, and few people I knew had served in one. Life went on, and I was in college when my mom called to tell me the news. Little Johnny Phillips, the blacksmith's son had been killed in Viet Nam.

Our little community had endured numerous tragedies. But everyone was touched by this one. His dad, Big Don Phillips was the blacksmith who repaired equipment for all the farmers.

My favorite memory of little Johnny was on a hot summer day. He and his sister and some other friends were splashing in a small wading pool in front of their stucco home. He was clad only in diapers and squealing in delight as he poured sandbuckets of water over heads.

His blonde hair made sunbeams in the sun. How does one go from being such an innocent, happy little child to being shipped home in a box?

Johnny's father just could not accept that his son was dead. He insisted that he look in the box. Perhaps it was a mistake. Some how there was a mistaken identity. Little Johnny could not be in there.

Johnny's dad finally saw what he had refused to believe.There was his son. He remembered the song "When Johnny comes marching home again! Hurrah!" But there were no hurrahs - only tears, tears, and more tears. That was when I realized that vets were those who had served so that I might be free.

Twenty three years ago we moved. Right across the street from our home is the American Legion Building. The vets keep that brick building in great condition.

When we came, most of the vets often there had served in World War II. What fantastic men! They did activities to serve our community. They were always friendly. And when one of their own passed away, they were all there - in uniform and taking part in the services.

Each year on Memorial Day they honor those who have given their lives with the ROLL CALL OF THE DEAD. That is one of the most impressive ceremonies I have ever attended.

I "ve spent time thinking of the word Vets. Perhaps it actually stand for Very Excellent Troops Serving.

Do you know a veteran? Take time today to thank him for what he gave and what you have.