Thursday, November 11, 2010


Father of fallen hero Aaron Aamot reflects on Veterans Day


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On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the "War to end all Wars" came to a close. Peace came to a world embroiled in war. It was to celebrate this peace that this day, Armistice Day, first became a national holiday - a day to remember and thank those who had brought it.

In the subsequent years our nation followed a policy eschewing war, putting actions to our words with peace conferences and disarmament treaties. We, of course, were not alone in these efforts to bring a lasting peace to our world.

1936: Gallup polled the American people concerning our possible involvement in another conflict in Europe. We were in the middle of the Great Depression. Domestic problems far outweighed foreign affairs. We had watched the rise of Mussolini, Hitler, and an ever more militaristic Japan under Hirohito. They looked and sounded like characters out of a comic book. They were little people, inconsequential people. Nobody in America wanted to die for some slob living halfway around the world. It didn't concern us. Nineteen out of 20 Americans said "stay out of foreign entanglements."

March, 1938: Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, stepped off his plane holding a treaty signed by the powers of Europe. He held it aloft with these words; "It is peace in our time." Eighteen months later, the "peace in our time" came to a violent end.

Dec. 7, 1941, "a day that will live in infamy" that it seems nobody remembers anymore. About 2,400 Americans were killed in a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. We had no plane to match the Japanese Zero, no force to oppose the German Blitzkrieg.

Although we had pursued peace with single-minded thoughtlessness, we were now at war and the young men and women of our country were called upon to make up for the failures of our diplomats. Wherever they went, they brought war. But peace followed after.

From that time to the present our sons and daughters, friends and neighbors have continued to serve us, the U.S., by going everywhere and doing everything. Regardless of the times or branch of service, they know that once they take that oath and put on that uniform they may find themselves in a place of extreme danger.

Yet generation after generation the great young men and women of America continue to come forth and stand in the gap for us. It is solely because of their willingness to do so - to sacrifice for all of us - that we as a nation continue to enjoy safety, security, our freedoms and our sacred rights in the midst of a world full of turmoil and uncertainty.

November is a significant month for our family. It was November, 1945, that dad came home. He stepped off the train down at the depot and walked uptown to the building now known as the Bellingham Towers, where his dad was working. Grandpa packed up his tools and they went home together.

Sixty-four years later, dad's grandson flew into the airport to a very different reception, as many thousands of people turned out to welcome him home. In the year since, our family has attended many memorials and dedications.

But this time of year brings to mind another dedicatory service attended by a man to whom the lives and fortunes of the soldier, the sailor, the Marine were always held close to his heart and mind for he was their commander-in-chief and he knew what they represented. On another November this tall, gaunt, haggard-looking man, Abraham Lincoln, stood up and encapsulated who we are as a nation protected by a citizen soldiery in a few simple words that still resonate today:

"It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated, here, to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ... that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Mark Aaron Aamot of Custer is a native of Whatcom County. While he never served in the Armed Forces, he is the son of one soldier and the father of four more. Aamot's son, U.S. Army Spc. Aaron Aamot died in Afghanistan in 2009.

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