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Veterans Day: Let's Give Thanks By: Kevin Ferris
Philly.com | Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Let's give thanks.

It's early in the month, I know. Families haven't gathered, no football games are on TV today, and Santa's not sleighing down the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Let's give thanks anyway, on this day we set aside to honor our nation's veterans. First, to all those who have worn their nation's uniform in the past. Second, to all those who serve today, whether they're home safe at the moment or overseas in harm's way. Thanks for serving voluntarily in a time
of war. Thanks for committing to a mission that is constantly under attack.

There's a dichotomy worth pondering. For so many, the words summing up the Iraq war are lies, debacle, quagmire, withdrawal. It was never about weapons of mass destruction or the war on terror, but oil, power, imperialism.

But then you read the message Special Forces Capt. Jeffrey P. Toczylowski wrote to his family in Ambler, Montgomery County:

"If you are getting this e-mail, it means I have passed away... . Please don't be sad for me. It was an honor to serve my country, and I wouldn't change a thing. It was just my time.

"Don't ever think that you are defending me by slamming the global war on terrorism or the U.S. goals in that war. As far as I am concerned, we can send guys like me to go after them, or we can wait for them to come back to us again. I died doing something I believed in and have no regrets except that I couldn't do more."

That e-mail, written about by my colleague Bonnie L. Cook in Tuesday's Inquirer, brings up another set of words summing up the war: honor, duty, commitment, courage, sacrifice. And maybe one more: awe. Awe that in a time when cynicism, partisanship and bitterness run rampant, there is someone who could look beyond all that and give his life in the service of others. For a cause and a country he believed in. Even though there was no shortage of people willing to tell him how wrong he was.

Capt. Toczylowski, who died in Iraq on Nov. 3, is not alone. Of course, there are other vets who do not share his commitment to this cause, who believe the war is a huge mistake. But many other veterans I've talked to over the last few weeks agree with the captain. They believe the United
States is doing an important thing, even a noble thing. They see the mission as right for Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States.

That doesn't mean they can't list the mistakes they witnessed. Or that they accept every pronouncement from on high as gospel. It doesn't mean they're eager to go back after a second or third deployment - though they will if called. And sometimes their highest priority is not national security or defending the flag or Mom and apple pie. It's keeping each other alive. And then, other times, honoring the fallen.

A memorial service for Capt. Toczylowski will be held at noon today at Valley Forge Military Academy & College in Wayne. He'll be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday. Last night, his message home was to be read in full at a ceremony at the Montgomery County Courthouse honoring Vietnam War dead. At one point in the e-mail, he wrote, "Time keeps rolling
and so should my family and friends. The only thing I ask is that you toast me every so often, because you know I'll be watching and wanting to be with you."

So here's to Capt. Toczylowski, and many, many others.

Let's give thanks.

Kevin Ferris is a member of The Inquirer Editorial Board. He can be contacted at kferris@phillynews.com.

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