As I was driving to the Veterans Administration hospital in Grand Junction last week, I thought about memories I’ve had making this trip in the Moffat County veterans van.
The van is part of a program that provides free rides to veterans who need to go to the VA.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 bought the van, Moffat County funds the gas and upkeep, and a grant from tobacco taxes pays for drivers.
Sites from the drive brought me to a moment of reverie and reminiscing.
There’s the big blue gate on the left side a few miles down Rio Blanco Hill that Richard Maxson, one of the drivers of the VA van, used to always point out as the halfway point between Craig and Grand Junction.
Then, a little ways more, there’s the “treehouse” on the right, named so by my daughter Rachelle because it has a tree growing out of every window and door.
It too has become part of the routine.
The drivers and veterans are mostly older people who mainly grew up here in Moffat County.
Their days start early, and they like to make their appointments at their respective clinics as soon as they open.
That means arriving around 8 a.m., which means we have to leave Craig about 5 a.m., and if there’s snow on the road, we get to leave even earlier.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve suggested waiting for snowplows and the sun to do a little work would make the drive a lot safer — they just tune me out like I’m a grandkid.
I don’t think anyone can persuade old men who flew over Germany in 1942, in B-17s through flack and enemy aircraft, that road conditions might be too dangerous.
And I’m not about to let on I think differently.
The old vets close their eyes and rest a little on the drive.
However, the rest of us stay awake with adrenaline-sharpened eyes, watching to see just what form our impending doom will take.
One particularly bad winter’s morning, the gentleman in the front passenger seat started talking about his life.
I found myself relaxing as this old timer reminisced about his past.
He had been in the Eighth Air Force, and had flown over Germany during World War II. Riding with him that day was like riding with a superhero and my grandpa at the same time.
I listened to him like a small child. The memories he spoke of from his incredible life were amazing and full of more sacrifice and service than anyone I’ve ever met.
I never spoke or asked questions, but instead just listened quietly from the back seat.
He had such Veritas that the drive and bad roads didn’t seem to be dangerous anymore.
It was a privilege to be able to spend a day with such an amazing man.
History was no longer a black and white television show or 3-D movie because for a moment I was actually in Moffat County in the 1930s, and in a B-17 bomber over Germany with him.
Imagine what growing up with the Greatest Generation must have been like, working with and living next door to real heroes.
It’s too bad their sense of sacrifice has not been matched by any generation since. In fact, the narcissism and sense of entitlement today from later generations is what’s bringing down this country from within.
Many of the World War II veterans were so happy to have just survived and gotten home that when they did, they knew what was important.
Family and country came before self.
I give thanks to all World War II veterans, their families, and the people of that generation who grew up in Moffat County.
I wish you and yours peace and happiness, and may the Lord keep you all in his heart.
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