Do We Still Care About Veterans?

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So first — answer this simple question.

Do you care that young men and women are dying every day in service to their country in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Do you think that you and your family have benefited from the willingness of millions of your fellow citizens to serve in the military — so often at the cost of their own lives?

Yes? Ah. We thought so.

So then, consider this bit of information.

When the Vietnam Memorial Wall came to Payson earlier this year, lots of folks lined Main Street to greet the motorcycle escort of mostly Vietnam vets who led the Wall into town. We talked to many of these veterans afterward. They were moved to tears that their fellow citizens stood along that street, waving the flag of the country those veterans risked their lives to defend.

For the first time, many of those scarred vets felt welcomed home.

Now one more observation, before we get to our point.

We talked to veterans who attended last year’s Veterans Day activities in Payson. More than one of them said they turned in their chairs to count the crowd — as a measure of whether people care about their service.

All right: So here’s the point.

On Tuesday, the nation will celebrate another Veterans Day — with brave Americans under fire in defense of the nation that has given each of us so much.

The committee has prepared a wonderful event in honor of the nation’s veterans, slated for 11 a.m. in the Payson High School auditorium. The event will feature speeches, songs, performances, tributes, a slide show and other creative tributes to those who have served.

Last year, only about 100 people showed up — many of them participants.

But last year, you didn’t know that the veterans there at some point turned and scanned the empty seats and drew a conclusion about whether anyone cares about their sacrifice.

And you didn’t know that Payson families with loved ones under fire right now in foreign lands will be there too. And they also, will almost against their will look to see if you care.

So you might want to be there.

Assuming you really do care.

A dark day for Payson

Just the other day in this space, we told the Longhorns girls soccer team how proud we were of them for their gutsy fight and their wonderful sportsmanship.

We concluded with the earnest hope that we could make them as proud of Payson as we are of them.

Alas. We failed the test almost immediately.

We’re sorry, girls. We’re really and truly ashamed. We don’t know what to say.

We’re referring to Tuesday’s election results: one of the most dispiriting days in Payson’s recent history.

First, voters rejected the partnership with the YMCA, which would have provided an urgently needed place for our kids to play and grow.

Worse yet: On the same day, voters rejected Payson Unified School District’s budget override extension, which provided money for vital services.

How could that be? How could the Payson we thought we knew turn its back on its kids?

The YMCA would have provided a safe, nurturing, challenging environment for kids in this town — and it wouldn’t have cost the town a dime. In fact, it would have saved the cash-strapped town $140,000 annually.

And then you have the school budget override, whose failure will force a $400,000 budget cut next year, with escalating cuts in the future. That could wipe out music, sports and many other programs — just for starters.

Such votes are a slam dunk in most towns. Heck, impoverished Globe on Tuesday approved a similar measure with an 83 percent margin.

Truth is: We blew it. All of us.

It’s easy enough to blame the people who voted no — the ones who figured they shouldn’t have to be bothered worrying about other people’s kids.

But the people who knew better also failed. Advocates for schools mounted little or no campaign at all, but merely shrugged and crossed their fingers. And advocates for that vitally needed recreation center let the YMCA do all the work, relying on advertising instead of ringing doorbells.

Perhaps we’ll learn something from the debacle — some lesson about how hard you have to fight to have a compassionate and balanced community.

But for now, all we can do is apologize to the girls on the soccer team and to all of the kids in this town, who figured they could count on grown-ups.

It’s a hard lesson — but true. Grown-ups mess up sometimes.

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