With Veterans Day behind us and the start of the 2020 holiday season before us, the most confusing and “topsy-turvy” year in my lifetime, is finally coming to a close.
In addition, as the world suffered through an attack of the COVID-19 virus, we have all learned a lot, but unfortunately it has been mostly about teaching us what we do not know. For my family, an extra dose of sadness came with the passing of my mother in March, and my brother-in-law, Terry Taylor, in October. Yet here again, there were some surprises, which made me realize how little we know about people, even when we thought we knew them well.
I had no idea my brother-in-law Terry, and his wife Marilyn, were instrumental in building a hospital in Africa. In fact, their contribution was considered so monumental, the local African church held a “celebration of life” in his honor. It also came as a complete surprise, when I went through the items my mother had saved, to find records of my family’s history back through 1940. Some of those items made this year’s Veterans Day even more personal for me.
I recall it was just a short time ago, when I looked over the list of SCV veterans in The Signal, and realized my adoptive father, Ben Ferdman, and his younger brother Paul Feldman were not included. I fired off an email asking they be added, and guess what, this year their names were proudly displayed. Scanning the list again this year, I realized my good friend and Marine veteran Mr. Joe Lozano was not included. I fired off another email and I am sure his name will be in print next year. So, if you know of any SCV veterans who are not currently on the list, please honor them by sending their information to our local paper.
Even as this year’s Veterans Day celebration was to become a virtual event, I was staggered on the day prior, during the Santa Clarita City Council meeting, when Councilman Bob Kellar told his “Nickel” story, as it brought me to a very somber place. I was not hearing the story for the first time, yet this year, I was able to reflect on the meaning in a much more dramatic way. Bob’s story tells of an older gentleman who gave Bob a special nickel to carry on his tour of duty, and asked Bob to bring it back to him when he returned home. As I heard Bob tell the story this time, I reached up and held my father’s dog tags. My dad had left America’s East Coast wearing them in 1943 and brought them back home with him in 1946. Ernest Frank passed away in 1948, and I had never seen his dog tags or information about his military service until March of this year. But that was just the start. In addition, I also found and held my adoptive father’s Navy tags as well. Ben Ferdman passed away in 2003.
Those who served in World War II are known to be a part of the greatest generation and tended not to talk much about their service. So, I was surprised again, when I spotted pictures of Ben’s older brother Ken serving as an Army sergeant. In those days, almost every family had a member in the fight against the Axis powers. Unfortunately, some came home wounded and some did not come home at all. Years later, Bob’s nickel did its job, and brought him back home. My WWII family was just as lucky, with two in the Army, one in the Army Air Corps, and one in the Navy, all returning safely.
Today, with an all-volunteer military, and no imminent threat to the homeland, only true patriots enlist and serve. Our country makes every effort to provide our service members with the best munitions and armaments possible, but combat is not a video game, and some service members suffer wounds and trauma that follow them for the rest of their lives.
TV ads asking for help for our wounded warriors are shown daily, and serve as a reminder of how important it is for our military leaders to be extremely prudent when deciding to put our brave heroes in harm’s way. I proudly support our military, and have the utmost confidence in their ability to keep us safe. I believe when called upon, the military’s mission should be clear, with rules of engagement set allowing them to “take care of business.”
American forces invaded Afghanistan as an answer to the Sept. 11, 2001, homeland attack. The goal was to eliminate al-Qaeda and to deny terrorists a base of operations by dismantling the Taliban. Now it is 19 years later, so I ask, why are we still there? Realize, that is about five times the amount of time it took the Allies to drive the German army out of Europe.
My position is every U.S. soldier’s life and health are important, and their safety, while performing the risky activity of combat, should be high on our commander-in-chief’s list of priorities. Not even one American soldier’s blood should be spilled policing a foreign nation, participating in nation building, or being used as a political pawn. If America has a clear objective, it should be made known, and the soldiers should be provided the resources to finish the job.
Then, when the mission is over, and the fight has been won, our brave men and women soldiers deserve the right to come home. Afghanistan should not be an exception. Therefore, Mr. President, I’m looking forward to you bringing those soldiers home, thereby giving them a chance to celebrate the holiday season with their families, along with the rest of America.
Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.