The late Bob Hope is the only individual in history designated
an honorary veteran by the U.S. Congress. The English immigrant,
who turned 100 shortly before his death in July, received
this honor in 1997.
Bob Hope entertained troops from 1941 until his last
trip to Kuwait when he was 88, reports The Tidings,
the Los Angeles diocesan newspaper. Following Hopes
death, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles noted that
the Catholic convert and his wife, Dolores, donated to many
Catholic causes, so often quietly and without public notice.
At a memorial Mass, Cardinal Mahony said that the great comedians
ability to make those in great physical or emotional
pain laugh was truly remarkable.
When Hope died, it wasnt his stage performance that
vets recalled. It was the fact that he was there: He shook
their hands, visited wounded soldiers and phoned their families
when he returned home.
Prior to his death, Bob Hope donated his memorabilia to the Library of Congress
(LOC), where there is an ongoing exhibit. The Congressional Gold Medal, presented
by President John F. Kennedy, a Navy vet who died 40 years ago this month, was among
those Hope treasured most, says the Web
site. Hope was criticized for appearing to support the Vietnam War, but he believed
in supporting armed forces who were fighting and dying for their country, whatever
We can continue Hopes legacy by honoring and praying
for those who are serving and have served our country, especially
on Veterans Day, November 11. Originally known as Armistice
Day to mark the end of World War I, the name was later changed
to honor vets of all wars.
According to the 2000 census, there are 26,549,704 veterans living in the United
States and Puerto Rico, says the Web site of the Department
of Veterans Affairs. This Web site provides suggestions for activities, historical
facts and links to local directors of veterans affairs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has information about
pension, burial and memorial benefits, vocational rehab, programs
for homeless vets and other services. Nearly 65,000 vets will
receive long-term care this year through inpatient programs
of VA or state veterans homes. In addition, over 90 percent
of VAs medical centers also provide outpatient long-term
Veterans from World War II and the Korean War are elderlymany
of them live on fixed incomes. Others are disabled or mentally
ill. They deserve our help in protecting their rights because
some services are in danger of being cut.
Another organization that provides support services for vets and military on active
duty, as well as their families, is the American
Red Cross. In addition to seeking financial contributions, the Red Cross encourages
blood and tissue donations.
We can follow Bob Hopes example by spending time with those who served in our
armed forces. Many elderly, mentally ill and disabled vets would appreciate a visit
from a friend, relative or even a stranger. Pray with them, play a game with them,
listen to their stories. Encourage them to record their wartime memories on audio
or video, for genealogy records or for the Library
of Congresss Veterans History Project. But be respectful of the fact that
some may find their wartime experiences too painful to share, even after many years.
Take a real or virtual tour of a memorial or museum that honors vets. When I was
in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, I was so impressed with my tour of the
Women in Military Service for America Memorial, at the entrance to Arlington National
Cemetery, that I gave a donation to register my mom, who had been an Army nurse during
World War II.
The National WWII Memorial will be dedicated next May in our nations capital.
You can search for someone who is enrolled or register a veteran on the Web
Watch a film and/or read a book related to U.S. armed forces
or veteransfiction or nonfiction. If you revisit a title,
reflect upon whether your perspective has changed.
More Than Parades
The next time you see vets marching in a parade, remember
the significance of why they are there: They risked their
lives believing they were making the world a better place
for us and our offspring.
Bob Hope, who traveled an estimated 10 million miles to entertain
G.I.s, showed us that life is measured by what we give, not
by what we accumulate. M.J.D.