Tag Archives: Veterans Day

Relishing the recognition

Oh, how I am relishing the love and respect that comes to veterans these days.

Veterans Day 2021 is about to pass into history, but I have to offer a brief word of thanks to Americans who take the time to express their thanks for the service millions of us have given to the nation.

Why relish this now? In this day and time?

Because I came from an age when it wasn’t always the case. I am a member of the Vietnam War generation. I served for a time in that war zone. I came home and was greeted with … well, what I have called raging indifference. Some of us took the blame for a war policy that went badly. Yes, Americans blamed the warriors for carrying out the lawful — if mistaken — orders from the top of the chain of command.

That is not the case today. For that I am grateful and appreciative of the expressions of thanks I get fairly routinely.

The nation’s collective attitude seemed to change about the time the Persian Gulf War ended in early 1991. It was a brief, but violent conflict. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and took command of that nation’s vast oil reserves. President George H.W. Bush declared the occupation of Kuwait “will not stand.” President Bush ordered the mustering of a half-million troops in the region.

Then we launched air attacks against Iraq. Then the troops rolled into Kuwait. We took control of the country after just a few days. Then our troops came home to the kind of welcome we hadn’t seen since the end of World War II.

They were victorious! They accomplished their mission. We were proud of them. Who led the national cheering? Vietnam War veterans organizations were instrumental in that effort. I am proud of the work they put in to welcome home the men and women who liberated Kuwait.

The love and respect has continued as we have welcome troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thus, Veterans Day has become the kind of celebration that our veterans have deserved all along.

Thank you, America.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Veterans Day story for the ages

I want to share a story about a particular U.S. Army veteran, a man I did not know, but who is a dearly beloved member of my family.

His name was George Filipu. He was my grandfather, Mom’s dear, sweet father. I was born in December 1949. My Papou and my Yiayia came to meet me when I was about three weeks old. He died later that day of a heart attack. Note: I want to refer them by the Greek terms for “grandfather” and “grandmother.” 

But when he first arrived in the United States in the early 1900s, he and my Yiayia got married. In November 1918, he decided he wanted to enlist in the Army. At that time U.S. immigration policy granted instant citizenship to non-citizens who wanted to serve in the military.

Papou wanted to serve, so he joined the Army because he wanted to get into the fight in Europe; I refer to World War I.

Then something happened for the betterment of the planet: they signed an armistice and the fighting stopped. Papou’s military service was cut short.

However, because of the policy that granted him citizenship, he was able to maintain his American citizen status. I want to add that, according to stories handed down by Mom and her brothers Phil and Jim, Papou wore his pride in his new country on his sleeve as well as in his heart.

He and Yiayia loved this country beyond measure. They never returned to the “old country.” Yiayia in particular refused to return, saying, in effect, “This is my home and this is where I will remain.”

Yiayia lived a long life after Papou died. She passed away on the Fourth of July 1978. We are certain she chose that day to leave this world because (a) she loved this country deeply and (b) she wanted to make sure we would remember it.

My Papou, George Filipu was willing to fight for the country that he, too, loved. He was a proud U.S. Army veteran.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

He was my favorite veteran

My favorite veteran would have turned 100 this past May. He never saw his 60th birthday … and I remember him with great fondness.

That is him in the picture. He is the sailor standing at the door, guarding it with a British Royal Marine. I should tell you that the room on the other side of the door contained the Allied naval commander in the Mediterranean and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

My favorite veteran, of course, is my dad Pete Kanelis.

Dad imbued in me a love of country. He was a true-blue patriot. It was his country, right or wrong. He went to war for the nation that welcomed his parents to its shores at the turn of the 20th century. My grandparents came to America not knowing a word of English; they spoke Greek in the home. Dad didn’t learn English until he went to school in Pittsburgh, Pa.; he told me his first day ended when he ran home crying because he couldn’t understand what anyone was saying.

He learned the language.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Dad was sitting at home in Portland, Ore., listening on the radio to reports of what happened that morning in Hawaii. He was a 20-year-old college student. Dad left the house, took a bus downtown and went to the armed forces recruiting station intending to enlist in the Marine Corps; the USMC office was closed. He walked across the hall to join the Navy … on the very day we were attacked by Japanese forces.

My favorite veteran reported for duty several weeks later as the nation mobilized to fight the tyrants in Europe and Asia. He went to Navy boot camp for three weeks and then shipped out to England.

Dad saw combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He swam for his life after an Italian dive bomber sank his ship in the Med. Dad participated in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, landing at Salerno in 1943.

His Navy career ended in the Philippines, where he was staging for an invasion of Japan. President Truman then decided to drop The Bomb on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. The war ended. Dad came home. He married my mother. He welcome me into the world in late 1949; the first of my two sisters came along in March 1951, while the youngest of us arrived in April 1957.

He didn’t volunteer much about what he did during The War. However, he would talk about it when someone asked.

He was part of what they call The Greatest Generation. He answered the call to duty, he did his duty, then he came home and got on with the rest of his life. If only it hadn’t ended so early.

He is my favorite veteran and I honor his service to the nation he loved beyond measure … while honoring as well all of those who wore the nation’s uniform.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Thank a veteran; they appreciate the love

In recent years I have been more vocal in thanking veterans I recognize when I see them.

You can spot a vet when he or she is wearing a “gimme cap” that declares their status as a veteran. I especially do so when I see someone wearing a World War II or Korean War veteran cap. Why? The answer is obvious: they are getting quite old.

I don’t see many WWII vets these days, given their dwindling numbers. The last vet from that era I saw, I thanked him “for saving the world from tyranny.” He responded with something that suggested he had little to do with the fight. I offered my thanks once again and told him, “You deserve all the thanks that should come your way.” He smiled, shook my hand and didn’t say another word.

Sixteen million Americans suited up to fight tyranny and oppression during World War II. Last I heard there are about 500,000 (or fewer) of them alive today. The Korean War broke out five years after the end of World War II, so those vets are quite long in the tooth as well.

Veterans Day is approaching. I intend to go out of my way to thank every single vet I see that day and will dedicate myself to thanking them until they plant me into the ground.

As for Vietnam War veterans, my standard greeting to them is a simple “Welcome home,” which those of us who served in that conflict have come to appreciate. We didn’t get that kind of welcome when we came home from Southeast Asia.

So there you go. If you see a veteran, extend a word of thanks. I know for a fact they appreciate hearing it. Don’t stop doing so when Veterans Day comes to an end.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I salute my favorite veteran

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My favorite veteran would be 99 years of age had he been given more time on this good Earth.

He died 40 years ago. Peter John Kanelis was just 59 years of age when he perished in a freak boating accident up yonder in British Columbia.

I have saluted him already on this blog as we commemorate Veterans Day. I’ll do so again simply by thanking him for imbuing in me a sense of duty to my country. He exhibited the meaning of answering the call to duty on arguably one of the darkest days in U.S. history.

Japanese warplanes attacked our fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Dad, who was just 20 years of age then, was listening to the radio reports of what had occurred. He got up from his chair and left my grandparents’ house in Portland, Ore. Dad ventured downtown to the armed forces recruiting station. The Marine Corps office was closed that Sunday, so he walked across the hall to enlist in the Navy.

Roughly two months later, Dad reported for duty and went to war, joining 16 million Americans to fight tyranny around the world.

Dad taught me implicitly years later about duty and honor and love of country. He didn’t generally volunteer much of about what he endured in the Mediterranean Theater of operations; I would ask him and he would talk about it. He was proud of the service he delivered to his country.

I am proud of him to this day. I also am proud of all the members of the Greatest Generation who triumphed over tyranny as well as all who served — and are serving in defense of this great nation.

If you see someone you recognize as a veteran, thank him or her. I do so regularly … in honor of my favorite veteran.

Be sure to thank our WWII, Korean War vets

Their ranks are diminishing each day.

I refer to the brave veterans of two long-ago wars: World War II and the Korean War.

World War II came to an end in September 1945; less than five years later, North Korea invaded South Korea and the Korean War was on. Thus, the men who fought on World War II battlefields aren’t much older than those who fought in Korea.

Monday is Veterans Day. I am a veteran as well. My wife and I are going to breakfast in the morning at a restaurant that will provide free chow to vets who I presume can present some ID that proves they served in the military; I have the ID, so I’ll enjoy a meal on the house.

If I see any WWII or Korean War vets, I’ll be sure to extend a hand of gratitude for their service. I’ll know them if they are wearing a ballcap that IDs them in that manner.

These men and women are in their very late 80s and 90s these days. Sixteen million Americans served in the military during World War II; fewer than 500,000 of them are still among us. During the Korean War, 5.7 million Americans wore our nation’s uniform and my hunch is that their numbers have diminished to levels rivaling the WWII vets.

Sooner than many of us want to acknowledge, there will be no one left from those two grisly conflicts.

So I am pledging to shake as many hands and express my thanks and gratitude to as many individuals as I recognize as vets. My gratitude will extend far beyond a single day we set aside to honor these brave Americans.

And rest assured, by all means we should honor all the men and women who have served our nation.

All of them have earned our eternal thanks.

My favorite veteran would enjoy the recognition he deserves

The picture you see here reveals my favorite veteran. He’s the fellow on the right, the sailor who is standing guard next to a British marine in front of a door where some highly sensitive negotiations were underway.

The sailor is Pete Kanelis, my father. The marine’s name, as Dad told me, was Tony. That’s all I know. The year was 1943. The place was off the coast of Sicily aboard a command ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

The negotiation involved the Allied naval commander in the Med and the British prime minister, Winston Churchill.

So, Dad had a brush with arguably the 20th century’s greatest statesman. As Dad told me the story, Churchill looked at him, asked Dad a question, then patted him on the head and said something like, “There you go, Yank.”

Dad will be among the veterans we will honor Monday. It’s called Veterans Day, a holiday that came into being known as Armistice Day; it was established to commemorate the end of World War I, which was supposed to be The War to End All Wars. It wasn’t.

World War II followed. The United States joined the fight on Dec. 7, 1941, with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

I learned something profound about my favorite veteran on a trip to the Pacific Northwest with my wife in September. Dad’s youngest brother, Tino, told my wife and me about the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “I was 9 nine years old at the time,” Uncle Tino told us, “and I remember it vividly.” The family was listening to the radio news broadcast of the attack and its immediate aftermath.

Tino looked around for his big brother. “Where’s Pete?” Tino said he asked about Dad. He was gone. He had left the house in northeast Portland; he went downtown to enlist in the Navy.

Yes, Dad was so incensed at what had happened in Hawaii, he enlisted on that very day to get into the fight. He would suit up a month or so later. He would complete his basic training in San Diego, Calif. and then would ship out for Europe.

He got his wish. Dad took part in the fight to save the world from the despots in Berlin, Rome and Tokyo who wanted to subject the rest of us to their tyranny.

All told, about 16 million Americans took part in that great struggle. Seventy-five years later, their numbers have dwindled to just slightly less than 500,000 men and women. They are almost all gone.

Indeed, just this weekend, the last known survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack reportedly passed on. I fear the day when all those Americans who answered their nation’s call will be gone.

We honor them today. We honor all our veterans who have donned a military uniform — in war and in peace.

It is their day. As for Dad, I am immensely proud to be the son of an American who performed heroically and who, along with his comrades in arms, saved the world.

Students honor our nation’s veterans … well done, y’all!

The woman in the dark suit at the front of this picture is Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, who today posted a Facebook note that thanked Palo Duro High School students and their choir director for honoring our nation’s veterans.

They did so by singing patriotic songs at an Amarillo business on the eve of this year’s Veterans Day commemoration.

It’s the kind of salute this nation has been giving its veterans since, oh, about the time of the Gulf War in 1990-91.

Mayor Nelson thanked the choir director for stressing the importance of honoring our veterans, suggesting in her message that it’s a relatively new event.

Actually, the nation has performed a remarkable collective turnabout since an earlier time. I have mentioned this awakening in previous blog posts, so I won’t belabor the point here. The Vietnam War was a dark time on several levels. We were involved in a bitterly fought war in Southeast Asia; the tide never turned in our favor; emotions at home ran white-hot; much of Americans’ anger was turned on the veterans who did their duty.

The Gulf War changed that attitude. And it only has gotten more heartfelt in the nearly three decades since that conflict. We’ve gone to war in Iraq, Afghanistan, in Somalia; we have engaged enemy fighters throughout the world as they seek to harm Americans abroad or plot to bring more terror to our shores.

I join Mayor Nelson in thanking the students and their educators for recognizing what the nation should have recognized all along.

Fourth of July celebration to ‘star’ Donald Trump? Really?

This can’t be happening, but I guess it is. When I first saw reports of this upcoming event celebrating the nation’s independence, I thought it might be a phony, made-up gossip item concocted by some Internet troll.

Turns out it’s real. Donald Trump appears intent on making the annual national Fourth of July celebration — which historically has been a non-partisan/non-political event — into something akin to a political rally.

The Washington Post reports that the president is moving ahead with plans to move the fireworks display from the National Mall to West Potomac Park. Then there’s this: He wants to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

According to Mother Jones: The traditional event has been staged for more than 50 years, and has long included fireworks on the mall organized by the National Park Service, as well as a concert near the Capitol featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and a lineup of major musical stars.

The national event has been televised for many of those years by PBS.

That isn’t apparently going to happen this year. Trump appears intent on inserting himself into the celebration. Only the Good Lord Almighty knows what the president is going to say when he takes the stage in front of President Lincoln’s statue.

I get that Trump is a proud American. However, to use the high profile of his office to promote himself — which appears to be a high probability — at an event choreographed to honor the nation is a reprehensible act of partisan politics.

Trump reportedly got the idea at a Bastille Day celebration in Paris. He wanted to stage a huge military parade in Washington, D.C., to commemorate Veterans Day, but that idea has been put off for at least a year; its cost is, um, prohibitive.

The Interior Department calls the Fourth of July event a “Salute to America.” Does anyone really believe, though, that this president is going to allow such a salute to occur without taking credit for his effort to “make America great again”?

Neither do I.

As the Post reports: The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.

Good grief!

Well done, Mr. President; thanks for honoring fallen vets

Something unexpected happened today that surprised many Americans.

Donald J. Trump paid an unannounced visit today to Arlington National Cemetery to help lay wreaths on graves of those who are buried there. He did so — get this! — in the rain. He was photographed carrying an umbrella while visiting the gravesites throughout the cemetery, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

You’ll recall while the president was in France to commemorate the 100th year since the end of World War I that he skipped a ceremony because of inclement weather. He said the Secret Service had advised him against flying aboard Marine One to the ceremony. It was raining that day and, not surprisingly, social media jumped all over the president’s declining to stand in the rain.

He stood in the rain today at Arlington National Cemetery.

What’s more, Trump took a lot of public grief for refusing to go to Arlington on Veterans Day. He said at the time that he had a busy time at the White House and couldn’t break away to honor the fallen veterans. He broke with many decades of presidential tradition; presidents usually attend Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Trump chose to stay inside on that day.

Trump did acknowledge that he erred in declining to go to Arlington on Veterans Day; he expressed “regret” for his no-show.

Well, today he sought to atone for what was a mistake a little more than a month ago. Today is National Wreaths Across America Day. Donald Trump thought he should take part. He was so very correct to do so.

Well done, sir. This veteran thanks you.