During the time I was a reporter for the Aiken Standard newspaper in South Carolina, it was my honor to cover more military-related stories and events than I can count. Toward the end of my tenure there, I covered a lot of events for the local Marine Corps League detachment.
I could count on hearing from Ed Hammons at least 2-3 times a month. Ed was the commandant of the Marine Corps League’s James L. Hammons Detachment 939 in Aiken (And no, the last name is no coincidence. They were related). He always wanted to know if I was interested in covering an event, writing a profile on a member who had received a signal honor, or just about anything else to keep the detachment’s name out in the public arena.
I never said no.
Even when the publisher and the managing editor of the newspaper sent me to another paper (a weekly the Standard had purchased) in order to bring it into the 20th century and oversee the transition to our way of doing things, I made sure Ed and his organization found a spot in the paper. And when I came back to the Standard, it was back to business as usual. Profiles, event coverage, special Veterans Day messages, Memorial Day messages, and visits from Marine dignitaries. It all went in.
And it was all important.
First of all, let’s face it. A newspaper needs news. So anything legitimate has a pretty good shot at getting in. But next, and more important, these were the men who stood in harm’s way and made it possible for me to sit here in a second floor office in my house and write this blog post. Made it possible for all of us to live in a land where, despite all those whining morons who complain about how “we are losing more freedoms everyday” because they have some political or social agenda to advance, freedom is alive and well and thriving. We are still the place the rest of the world looks to when the chips are down. And we are still the first to help friend and foe alike in times of disaster.
And it’s because of their service and sacrifice.
So again, I never said no. Neither did I say no to the other veterans organizations who contacted me.
Actually, that’s not true. I did say no the the Marine Corps League one time. Ed called and asked if I would come down and cover a special dinner program the league was having. They were going to present a number of awards, including making someone from the community an honorary member of the Marine Corps League.
“That’s quite an honor,” I told him. “Who is the recipient?”
It was me.
I turned hm down flat. No way. I wanted no part of it. At that point I had no doubt he was stunned (and a little hurt). After a long moment Ed asked my why. I remember my response.
“Ed, this is not the Lions club or the Kiwanis club we’re talking about. This is the Marines. The United States Marine Corps. These are the men and women who put on the uniform every day of their enlistment, and when their hitch is finally up, on a spiritual level, they continue to put on that uniform until the day they die. A Marine is made from the building blocks of honor, courage, and commitment unlike anything those of us who are not Marines will ever know. And that doesn’t take anything away from members of the other armed services because they can say similar things. But you are the one offering. And Ed, I just don’t think there are any honorary Marines. You either are or you aren’t. Period. And I just can’t accept the honor, though I consider just being considered a high honor in itself. I hope you’re not offended.”
So I attended the event, but I attended as a reporter. A very honored reporter.
And on this Veterans Day, I am grateful to every veteran out there. Whether you were on the front lines or were in an office in charge of ordering milk for the mess halls, every one of you is valuable, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.You are the real deal, and there are no substitutes.