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Continuing Hope's Legacy on Veterans Day


Showing Respect
More Than Parades


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 Hope’s 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 comedian’s “ability to make those in great physical or emotional pain laugh was truly remarkable.”

When Hope died, it wasn’t 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.

Showing Respect

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 the reason.

We can continue Hope’s 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 VA’s medical centers also provide outpatient long-term care programs.

Veterans from World War II and the Korean War are elderly—many 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 Hope’s 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 Congress’s 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 nation’s capital. You can search for someone who is enrolled or register a veteran on the Web site.

Watch a film and/or read a book related to U.S. armed forces or veterans—fiction 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.

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