November 12, 2014

A salute to heroes

Garrison observes Veterans Day


Twenty years ago, when Jason Matthews was still in high school at Garrison, America was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity.

"We stood alone, unrivaled as the world’s lone superpower. The Cold War was over. The Soviet Union had been, as President Ronald Reagan foresaw, relegated to the ash heap of history," he said.

The most recent conflict, the Persian Gulf War, had been perfectly executed at lightning speed. Veterans from previous conflicts are becoming older. Their numbers are dwindling.

Times have changed. Matthews pointed out that the 20th Century, the bloodiest in human history, has given way to an equally savage century. The old battlefields of the past, where great armies and navies of nation-states met in conflagration, have given way to asymmetrical warfare of terror networks flying planes into buildings, of lone wolves fueled by religious fundamentalism waging war through the crudest of means, he said.

"We live in a confusing age where the greatest enemy is the one we don’t know, where a cyber attack could be even more devastating than Pearl Harbor or 9/11, where remote controlled and satellite-guided drones reign down hell-fire missiles on combatants, where our greatest operations are conducted in stealth, and where the medieval barbarism of beheadings is brought into our homes through the Internet. The laws of war seem to no longer apply because our enemies don’t even respect the laws of nature," he said.

Matthews noted this year’s Veterans Day falls on the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Matthews said the Great War, as it has become known, remains the most senseless in human history. It would only end after an influx of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers – dough boys – took up arms in a just cause.

One of those dough boys was Matthews’ great-grandfather, Harold Matthews. The younger Matthews said little was known about the elder Matthews’ time at war. "But everyone knew he was proud of his service and that he found quiet strength in the brotherhood of the American Legion," Matthews said.

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