WITT: Thanking those on the front lines

Published 7:18 pm Monday, April 13, 2020

Over the last several years it has become common practice to thank acting and retired military personnel for their service.

Retired or separated military veterans are usually identified by the caps they wear identifying their branch of service, a ship on which they served, a division or regiment or battalion that was home to them or a conflict of bygone days.

These expressions of gratitude are, in many cases, long overdue, especially for those who served in Vietnam and were more often excoriated upon their return from that conflict.

Today, these “thank yous” are being extended to those who serve in less recognized positions. And rightly so.

Today, there are numerous individuals and professionals who are risking their lives to assure the continued operations of the everyday activities which are essential to society.

The value and sacrifice of health care workers has become quickly evident. Doctors, nurses, technicians and EMTs are daily putting their lives on the line to assure the care needed by those affected by the pandemic.

The shortage of materials and equipment in health care is well documented. Fortunately, some of those shortages are beginning to be addressed.

The U.S. surgeon general has described this period as “our Pearl Harbor.”

Those who have studied that period and the immediate aftermath of that fateful day understand how the nation mobilized its vast manufacturing power to produce the needed supplies of war.

Automobile and appliance factories were transformed into production facilities for tanks, guns and military vehicles.

Today, some auto manufacturing has transformed into fabrication of ventilators.

This nation and its support facilities are highly adaptable, although perhaps less so than 80 years ago because so much manufacturing capacity has transferred overseas.

There are many others who also deserve a “thank you:” grocers, small business owners, first responders, postal workers and those who collect our trash. All are exposing themselves to some level of danger as they work to keep the wheels of everyday life turning.

Make no mistake, however, despite all the misery, death and frenzied activity arising from this current condition, there are positive things arising as well.

People are finding out what it’s like to go outside for a walk in fresh air, to greet their neighbors and meet new people (while remaining a safe distance apart), to hear nature, to see their neighborhoods as they have not noticed them before.

People are also learning the importance of things that were previously taken for granted, including solitude.

And perhaps the most important thing manifesting itself again — as it has in times past in this country — is the kindness and caring of people willing to step up, share sacrifice and offer help when needed.

As in every instance of upheaval in human history, there are always those who will try to profit from the misery, who will seek to enrich themselves at the expense of others and who will ignore the general welfare for their own aggrandizement, like some religious leaders who don’t understand they are not necessary for an individual to speak to his or her own God.

When this current condition is over, those who have acted either for or against the common good will be remembered.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.