Veterans honored at Hot LZ Wall

Paul Boerger
Presenting the flags during yesterday’s Veterans Day ceremony at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden on Highway 97, northeast of Weed.

On this Veterans Day, November 11, 2014, America has been continuously at war for 13 years. From the 2001 Afghan invasion to Iraq, over 6,800 US service men and women have been killed, in addition to more than 50,000 wounded.

At the Hot LZ Wall, next to the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden outside of Weed, the cold didn’t deter several hundred people from gathering to honor and remember the country’s veterans, both living and dead.

As several speakers noted, November 11 was originally designated Armistice Day in remembrance of the end of World War I, which ended on the 11th hour of 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Congress officially changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all service men and women.

Siskiyou County Sheriff and Weed Police Department Chaplain Andy Grossman was the keynote speaker. Grossman spoke on a wide range of veteran’s issues including PTSD, killing and destroying as the job of the military, the psychological cost of learning to kill, the strength veterans can gain from military service, and the need for veterans to forgive themselves for what they may have done in the military.

Pastor of the Abundant Life Nazarene Church in Mount Shasta, Grossman noted that in addition to his Army service in Korea, he comes from a long line of family members who served in the military including his great grandfather in the Civil War, grandfather in World War I, father in WW II, brother in Vietnam, son in the Army, and cousin US Army Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, who wrote a Pulitzer prize nominated book, “On Killing.”

“He saw first-hand some of the psychological effects of combat on family members and went on to pursue a career primarily in helping veterans and law enforcement overcome some of the damage they incurred in their service,” Grossman said.

He noted the psychological cost in learning to kill and that many veterans were damaged by it, saying the purpose of the military is “to kill and destroy.”

“Most were able to overcome and grow in spite of it. We became strong leaders in our families and communities and country,” Grossman said. “We learned how to deal with the stress of combat. War tends to strengthen, empower and mature a veteran. You don’t hear much about that side of war. But the fact is that a majority of veterans experience no psychological problems and most do recover from it to become stronger than ever.”

Grossman said the problem with PTSD is that “Many people never realize they have a problem.”

“But they drink more, smoke more, get angry more, divorce more and on and on it goes,” Grossman said. “Now we know more. We know how to deal with it.”

Grossman urged veterans not to be a “macho man” and to seek help if needed. He said veterans should avoid a “perpetual pity party.”

“Many veterans do the John Wayne thing and battle their problems alone,” Grossman said. “Get the help you need. Choose to be victorious, not victims. It is our choice. If you are one of those who can’t shake the images or have to push those unpleasant memories to the back of your mind, I want you to know, you are forgiven. We forgive you. God forgives you. You need to learn to forgive yourself. And there is help for you in learning to deal with it.”

Grossman related his father’s feelings of guilt, even on his deathbed, over what he did in combat, before finally finding solace in God’s forgiveness.

“Dad passed away shortly thereafter. He carried that weight all his life unnecessarily,” Grossman said.

Grossman said that when he returned home from military service he found that life “wasn’t worth living.” Like his father, he found God could give his life purpose.

“I found forgiveness and purpose. Veteran, I want you to know that there is forgiveness for you. Let the battle be over. There is purpose and meaning to your life,” Grossman said. “Most veterans find that meaning and spend their lives making the world a better place. For that, we, your country, owe you a continuing debt of gratitude. So stand proud, veteran. This is your day.”

The ceremony included the dedication of new veterans names added to the Hot LZ Wall, presenting of the colors and a rifle salute by the Marine Corps League Siskiyou Detachment 936, national anthem by the College of the Siskiyous Jazz Choir, Taps played by trumpeter Dr. Scott Durbin, and Amazing Grace played by bagpiper Bob Budesa.

Master of ceremonies was retired US Navy Commander Dean Whetstine. Robert Menzies gave the invocation and the benediction was spoken by Mercy Mount Shasta chaplain Ray Horst.