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The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout


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“All Gave Some, Some Gave All:” What Can You Give?

(LCHF veterans at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall) (photo from LCHF Facebook page)

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” Those are the words that Winston Churchill uttered during the darkest hours of WWII. While those words were spoken in 1940, they are just as relevant today as they were then.

As American citizens, we are forever indebted to those who have served in the Armed Forces, and paying off that debt is our continuing duty.

Over 41 million Americans have served in the Armed Forces throughout our nation’s history, with more than 16 million of those serving during WWII. During the Vietnam era, 2.7 million American men and women served; their average age during service was 22 years old.

Approximately 58,000 Vietnam servicemen and women lost their lives while more than 303,000 were wounded.

Unfortunately, due to the social and political climate of the time, Vietnam veterans never received a proper welcome home to honor their service and sacrifice.

Though we cannot change the past, there are still ways to celebrate America’s veterans – especially those from the Vietnam War era – for their bravery and service.

One such way to celebrate veterans is through the Honor Flight Program.

Honor Flight is a national organization that flies veterans of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, as well as critically ill veterans to Washington D.C. 

Here, with their fellow servicemen and women, they experience their nation’s gratitude as enshrined in the monuments, memorials, and ceremonies dedicated to honor all those who have served throughout our nation’s history. 

Since its inception in 2005, the Honor Flight program has provided this opportunity to approximately 275,000 veterans.

As a national organization, Honor Flight has hubs in 48 states, including three in Illinois, with one in Lake County.

Most Honor Flight hubs provide one-day excursions to our Nation’s Capitol, however, Lake County Honor Flights are unique in that they are designed to provide veterans with a three-day, fully immersive experience.

This past weekend I joined three of my classmates – Timothy Rukavina, Nora Petty, Teresa Claire Gerber – and participated as guardians for Lake County Honor Flight #23, which was dedicated to 25 Vietnam War Veterans.

On Lake County Honor Flights, each veteran is assigned one guardian for the duration of the trip. The guardian is responsible for raising the funds necessary to cover all costs for their veteran and themselves, (hotel, airfare, food, etc..) additionally they are tasked with ensuring their veteran’s safety, escorting them throughout the trip, and providing companionship.

Upon acceptance as guardians for Lake County Honor Flight #23, the four of us worked together to raise the necessary funds required to cover the cost of the trip.

Additionally, we reached out to local schools and gathered hundreds of gratitude letters to give to our veterans.

Prior to our trip, we completed a day of training, where we learned protocols and were introduced to our veterans.

On the day of the Honor Flight, all 25 veterans, 25 guardians, and support personnel met at 3 a.m. for the bus ride to the Milwaukee Airport and then onto our flight to D.C.

As the plane touched down at Reagan International Airport, the National Anthem began playing over the airplane’s loudspeaker. 

On the tarmac, our flight was greeted by fire trucks flying American flags. Veterans were welcomed by hundreds of grateful bystanders applauding and cheering for them as they disembarked the plane and walked through the airport.

Over the next three days, we visited all the major war memorials, monuments, and museums, including, the Marines Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Navy Museum, and the Pentagon Memorial.

Of the sites visited and experiences shared, the two that resonated most with our group of veterans were their time spent at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and their witnessing of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. 

At the Vietnam Wall, the veterans shared stories, said prayers, and shed tears as they honored those who had fallen. Many veterans searched for the names of their friends and comrades, tracing them from the wall onto paper, as remembrances in their honor.

At the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, four veterans from our flight had the honor of laying the wreath in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The wreath laying was a somber moment accentuated by light rain and the falling of tears as the veterans commemorated the sacrifice of all those who had fallen in service.

Overall, Honor Flight #23 provided a cathartic experience for the veterans. No longer did they need to suffer the burdens of war in silence. Through this journey, they had the opportunity to share stories, release emotions, and heal the wounds of the past.

One veteran said that “the three days on this trip were the best jump on the checkerboard of [his] life.” 

Another veteran shared that the Honor Flight had cured him of the “fear and trauma” he had suffered for years following the war.

On our last evening together there was a “mail call,” reminiscent of those held during wartime, when soldiers would eagerly await the mail delivery in hopes of receiving a letter from loved ones back home.

Our Honor Flight mail call provided thousands of letters of gratitude to the veterans, many of whom were moved to tears by the magnitude of the outpouring of appreciation for their service.

The Honor Flight experience would not have been complete without a thunderous clap-out upon our arrival at the Milwaukee Airport, followed by a 12-car police escort and a parade of motorcycles as the veterans returned to the North Chicago War Memorial.

At the memorial, they were greeted by several fire engines, a DJ playing music, and a large welcoming crowd waving flags and applauding the veterans as they exited the bus.

If you choose to participate in the Honor Flight Program you will provide deserving servicemen and women with the experience of a lifetime. You will have the opportunity to facilitate their healing from the pains of war, and you will return with stories and an understanding of the veteran experience that no history textbook or movie could ever provide.

Over the three days on Honor Flight #23, we developed a true sense of camaraderie with the veterans. Though we met as strangers, we parted as family. Through our shared experience we forged bonds that transcended the decades between us. 

As Korean War veteran Howard Osterkamp said, “All gave some, some gave all.” What can you give?

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About the Contributor
Caroline Gerber
Caroline Gerber, Editor-in-Chief
Caroline is very excited to start her second year contributing to The Forest Scout, now as Editor-in-chief! A senior at LFHS, Caroline runs for the girl's track team and is an officer on the debate team. Outside of school, when she’s not with friends and family, Caroline enjoys watching action shows, playing guitar, listening to music, and walking her dog, Jasper.
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Comments (15)

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  • K

    Kathryn Petty (LFHS Alum)Oct 21, 2023 at 1:55 pm

    Beautiful article Caroline! I am so proud of all four of you, and not just because you’re outstanding ACT students! I saw the tremendous effort you put in to fundraise the cost of Honor Flight: speaking at the American Legion, writing dozens of letters, visiting businesses and local government offices, sitting outside the grocery stores all day in 90 degree heat. In addition, numerous veterans said the (hundreds of) gratitude letters you collected were their favorites as they were heartfelt and personal. The four of of you are truly role models.
    I also heard the moving and sincere feedback, not just from your veterans, but also from other veterans who wished they were your veterans. Your respect and compassion towards everyone on Honor Flight truly touched hearts. You brought a very special energy and laughter to the weekend as well.
    So proud of you!

  • B

    Barbara BoubinOct 21, 2023 at 8:05 am

    Wonderful article. Thank you for sharing and thank YOU for your service.

  • P

    Paige GibbonsOct 13, 2023 at 12:11 pm

    Beautifully written, Caroline.

  • J

    JasonOct 13, 2023 at 11:06 am

    While I agree that Vietnam Veterans deserve respect and healthcare, it’s disingenuous to compare Britain’s fight against a fascist invader to America’s failed attempt to force capitalism upon North Vietnam. The British civilians owed their lives to RAF pilots which died protecting civilians by intercepting Luftwaffe bombers. On the other hand, America had no real justification to intervene in Vietnam (the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a false flag operation), and sending conscripts into Vietnam did nothing to protect Americans at home.

    • G

      Glenn CannonOct 13, 2023 at 4:47 pm

      Jason. Unfortunately you totally missed the point of this article. I’m sorry!!

      • J

        JasonOct 15, 2023 at 2:52 pm

        My point is that while Veterans deserve decency, they do not necessarily deserve honor for what they did, and US Citizens do not have a “debt” to them.

        Given how the title and opening both aggressively pushed the notion that America must worship former military personnel, I have cause to point out that Caroline Gerber is wrong about that particular matter.

        Personally, I have little sympathy for those who voluntarily furthered American Imperialism, or who complied with orders to violate the basic decency of personhood.

        Perhaps the above explanations will make clear that there was no point for me to miss.

        • A

          AnonymousOct 16, 2023 at 8:59 am

          That is not very kind. After reading this article Caroline Gerber has inspired me to help veterans and respect them more.

          • J

            JasonOct 16, 2023 at 11:50 am

            The harshest criticism is more merciful than the sweetest lie.

        • T

          Teresa GerberOct 16, 2023 at 9:13 am

          American veterans who have fought to ensure your freedom are who made it possible for you to write these silly and disrespectful comments. Veterans deserve the utmost respect and honor and it is very sad that you don’t recognize that. Disappointing!

          • J

            JasonOct 16, 2023 at 11:48 am

            They weren’t fighting for “our freedom” since 1945, and that’s generous. Since then, the US Military has harmed our freedoms and basic decency far more than they defended it.

            Neither war criminals nor imperialists deserve “the utmost respect and honor”, and I am disappointed that Jingoism has prevented you from realising that.

        • C

          Carl L SorensenOct 20, 2023 at 7:23 am

          Jason, unless you were there, you have no idea. When we stepped forward and became part of the United States Armed Forces, you literally signed a contract with the United States of America to protect it. I left five friends in the rice paddies of Viet Nam.
          You better check your facts Jason, the United Staters owes a huge debt to the Soldiers, Mariens, Sailors, and Airmen that ffought and served. You see, we were litterally sprayed with Dioxin, a toxic weed killer and I have several medical problems that are attributible to Agent Orange exposure.
          AF reservists and Air National Guard members came down with medical conditions related to Agent Orange exposure in the 1990’s and 2000’s, but they were never in Viet Nam, they flew the C-123 aircraft that had been used to spray Agent Orange in Viet Nam, in the 1960’s and ’70’s.
          American imperialism? Perhaps you should reconsider your residency in the United States and select a country more in line with your befliefs, however, we will put up with you since you have the right of free speech, but use it wisely.

          Viet Nam, and Thailand.
          As a Viet Nam Veteran, I have been asked, countless times, why don’t you talk about it with us, my answer is, “You wouldn’t believe it”
          Its not about the war, its the warrior.

          • T

            Teresa GerberOct 20, 2023 at 10:03 am

            Very well said. Thank you for your service ??

          • J

            JasonOct 21, 2023 at 2:58 pm

            “the United Staters owes a huge debt to the Soldiers, Mariens [sic], Sailors, and Airmen that ffought [sic] and served.”
            Did those deaths do anything to change the outcome of the war? Did those deaths make Americans more free or safe back home? If the answer to either of those questions were yes, I would seriously consider the possibility that we had a moral debt at all.

            “You see, we were litterally sprayed with Dioxin, a toxic weed killer and I have several medical problems that are attributible to Agent Orange exposure.”
            That wasn’t a sacrifice, that was the US Military using chemical weapons without adequate NBC Protection for servicemembers. The fact that they didn’t even bother decontaminating aircraft is particularly telling.

            “American imperialism? Perhaps you should reconsider your residency in the United States and select a country more in line with your befliefs,”
            Expecting people to leave their country over any flaws is idiotic. First of all, I am a minor, so I cannot leave this country on my own free (barring a $450 USD fee and additional taxes) will. Second of all, choosing a country to live in is like choosing between raw sewage and cow dung to fill a pool – we should not expect people to choose the lesser of the intolerable. Third of all, this attitude presumes that criticism cannot be borne from a desire to improve, but that it instead must be fueled by hatred.

            “we will put up with you since you have the right of free speech, but use it wisely.”
            Is that a threat of bodily harm?

        • T

          Thankful for VeteransOct 20, 2023 at 11:19 am

          Funny how you have no problem living by military time as seen in your previous comments yet you don’t support the military. Also interesting how you have no problem enjoying the freedoms that our country’s servicemen have fought for yet you don’t support American veterans.

          • J

            JasonOct 21, 2023 at 2:35 pm

            “Military time” is just a term that Americans use because they are too dumb to realise that 24-hour time is normal in other parts of the world.

            Also, it’s notable that one of the freedoms which veterans fought for (to the extent which they did fight for freedom) include the right to criticise, withhold support from, and even ideologically oppose America’s political system and military.

            Trying to use the “You don’t support the military, so why do you enjoy freedoms?” line is pathetic, but at least it’s a bit more sensible than the “If you don’t like it, why don’t you leave?” line.