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Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald - August 11, 1999

'The greatest generation'
DENVER - The men at this gathering look like your grandpa. Gray hair, or no hair, is the rule. Hearing aides are worn by half while others wear thick glasses for dimming eyes. A few hobble when they walk and a couple sit in wheel chairs. Only a handful are trim and fit, an echo of their youth.
From all over America they have come to this Western town to gather in a suburban hotel for a few days. Many are from obscure small towns in the Midwest, although some quick-talking Yankees and soft-drawled Southerners are also on hand.
But this is no Rotary Club meeting of retirees in South Florida. These men represent the fading remnants of what one writer called "The Greatest Generation," the generation of our fathers and grandfathers who fought in World War II.
This gathering is of the 96th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, the "Deadeyes" who served in the Pacific Theater and whose touchstone event was the invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945. It was the last great battle in that most awful of wars, the battle that crushed the Japanese Empire and set the stage for the dropping of the atomic bomb in August of that year.
These are the men who huddled on ships awaiting a planned invasion of mainland Japan, an invasion made unnecessary by "the bomb." Harry Truman is their hero, "the bomb" was their savior.
I am at this 42nd annual reunion of that group with my father, who served in this proud outfit as a mere youngster. Not yet 20 years old, he found himself being shot at in the Pacific alongside this room full of comrades. They existed under conditions that the rest of us can barely comprehend.
Here in Denver are the lucky ones - the ones who made it back; the ones still in good enough health to travel; the ones who have not yet faded from us by the march of time. They gather each year to honor those who died fighting next to them and to share stories from those days in battle. One man told me about how he and my father spent a great deal of time in a foxhole together. You really get to know someone when you share a foxhole, he said.
Another man recalled how he was shot and several buddies, my father included, hoisted him onto the side of a tank to be taken back for medical help. But there was a problem - the sniper that had shot him was still shooting at the side of the tank where he was strapped. Dad and the others had to pull him back down and take him to the other side of the tank away from the line of fire. I think he appreciated that.
There are a million similar stories in this group of a few hundred men. These were not flashy fly-boys zooming about in airplanes, nor were they sailors wearing Navy white. These were the grunts, the men who carried rifles, who slept in the mud and who fought to take and hold ground one inch at a time.
Sitting in this large hotel ballroom as these men talk and laugh it's hard to believe they were heroes - are heroes. A few who became career military men still walk with an air of the past, straight shoulders and chest forward. But for the most part, these men show no obvious hint of their heroic deeds in a faraway place 54 years ago.
In a sense, that is another part of their legacy. After the war ended, these men went their separate ways, returning to the small towns from whence they came, or moving to build a life elsewhere in the postwar economic expansion. They took jobs, bought houses and raised families. They coached Little League, taught Sunday School and sang in the choir.
In short, they did all the things any responsible adult would do. The war was past and they didn't dwell on it.
But as time went on, they began to gather each year to remember, an urge perhaps forged by the bonds and friendships made in battle. And now in their twilight years, they want the rest of us to remember their generation as well. In recent years, they have placed monuments honoring the buddies who died and commemorating the sacrifices made by those who lived. They share photos and books and clippings that document their role in that great war.
And yet, their greatest monuments aren't made of stone, but rather are found in the lives they led, the businesses they built, the communities they helped and the children they raised. They gladly relinquished their role as warriors to pick up their place as citizens in a nation whose freedom they fought to preserve.
These men, and their counterparts all across the nation, want future generations to remember what they did, the sacrifices they made and the freedom they kept.
In his own way, each man here is a monument to that war and it is up to us, their children and grandchildren, to make sure the stories they tell don't get lost through the mists of time.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
August 11, 1999

Jefferson needs vision, structure
If there's any doubt about the kind of pressures growth can cause, consider the dilemma of Jefferson leaders about the town's sewer system.
With a 160-home subdivision rezoning before them, city leaders realized Monday night that the town's ability to process sewage in the downtown area was full.
Used up.
Between the current flow into the system and two other commitments for sewer connections, virtually all of the 330,000 gal. per day capacity is spoken for.
The good news is that the city has the land and permits to expand in-city sewer treatment facilities. The bad news is that to do that will cost around $300,000.
All of this was news to the developers and apparently to some on the city council.
That shouldn't be the case. Every major project that goes before the council should have an engineer's report outlining the impact of the project on the city's infrastructure, including water and sewer. No major project should get this far along without such information being available to all parties involved.
A lot of things touch on this Jefferson sewer crisis. For one, the problem could have a tremendous impact on whether or not the city pursues a joint venture with the county at the old Texfi facility that has recently been condemned. The city needs some of that capacity, but will that be cost effective?
Secondly, the need for inexpensive houses is great in Jackson County, as pointed out last week by a speaker at a chamber of commerce meeting. The proposed 160-home subdivision would provide some inexpensive homes, but is apparently now on hold until the sewer problem is addressed.
Finally, the issue points to the need for better vision and leadership in Jefferson. Rather than just reacting to problems, city leaders should be planning ahead for such things as sewer and water needs. Perhaps even impact fees should be studied for the town to help pay for infrastructure demands caused by growth.
We're not sure any of that's possible under the city's current form of government. The council isn't providing the kind of strong leadership the city needs today. Some have even suggested that the problem won't be fixed until the town has a city manager to handle the day-to-day issues.
At this point, we can't say exactly what the answer should be. But we do know that the town needs both greater vision among its leaders and a better government structure which insures that the policies and goals of the council are carried out.
Hopefully, the city council won't wait until another crisis is upon it before discussing how the city should move into the 21st century.

Letters to the Editor
The Jackson Herald
August 11, 1999
Supports BJC Nursing Home
Dear Editor:
Small rural medical facilities are targets of the media. With the aid of government agencies, the media really has a "hay-day" with any negative news available.
Our mother was a patient in the BJC Nursing Home in 1998. Sure, there were times we could have made a complaint for picky problems, and we did this some time. If we could keep our families at home, this would be ideal. Because we needed help with her care, we had to succumb to entering the nursing home.
When we saw a need, we tried to go to the source of help. Evidently, someone has a made a big issue out of a problems that could have been solved within the facility.
As we try to make ourselves look good by resolving to get government agencies involved, look what has happened to the many other residents and families who have questions in their minds if their family member is also in jeopardy.
We as family members need the help and assistance of health care facilities. Please know there are families who appreciate and need the BJC Nursing Home. We want to help make this a positive facility, and with the efforts of community and concerned citizens, BJC Nursing Home will remain a place of quality care.
Homer and Belle Scoggins

Nursing home employees work hard
Dear Editor:
I have heard this and, of course, everyone is talking about BJC Nursing Home and what happened when the state was there. I have to say that working in a nursing home is hard work and if there is not enough help, it does make it harder on the ones who are working to do a good job. I worked in a nursing home for five years and it is hard. So before you want to talk bad about the staff at BJC or any other nursing home, you need to go work in a nursing home for one day or even one hour. Then, you would see that the staff does take care of the residents that are there. There needs to be more CNAs at every nursing home and hospital. But when people do not want to work, you can't make them.
Tammy Wilbanks

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