For three years now, I have helped put together The Hays Daily News’ Veterans Day tribute. I’ve gotten to know many of the faces that appear there — more than 400 of them. Some I know in real life, albeit an older version.
Most are from WWII, but there are some from just about every era, including WWI and those currently serving. We’ve even had one or two from the Civil War before.
Some of the photos are faded, fuzzy or well-worn, creases showing they’ve been carried in wallets for years. Others are new, sharp and clear. In some of the youthful faces you see eagerness. Some are battle-weary. Others appear uncertain. A few show a spirit of fun — hats a rakish (or maybe tipsy-on-leave) angle. Some make you laugh, some make you cry.
But there is something you can see in the eyes of all — pride in serving their country.
It’s very humbling to do this project. Every year, veterans or their family members bring in photos for us to scan so they can be included (It’s kind of heartbreaking when they have missed deadline and we can’t include them. But we do save them for the next year.) Some ask how much it costs to have their picture in the section, and are surprised when we tell them nothing (thanks to sponsors). They bring in photos of their brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers and daughters to be included too. Some have stories they share with us.
You can tell for some — especially for those who are now old men — it’s hard for them to come here and ask to be included. They don’t necessarily want to be recognized for what they felt was just doing their duty to their country.
But they are glad someone does. You can see it in their eyes.