Veterans Day has lost its meaning for one veteran. Not because he isn’t proud of the time he served, but because it has turned into a time to vacation for most.
“Veterans Day is a day to honor veterans and those that died serving our country,” said retired Lt. Jim Muhr, a Vietnam Army combat veteran.
“This is one day to celebrate (veterans) and honor the living and dead. Most people get caught up in the holiday as a time to get away and have lost the meaning of it.”
Muhr would like to see the community rally their support for veterans, alive and dead, and attend Payson’s Veterans Day program at the high school Nov. 11.
“We have to look out for them because they looked out for us,” he said.
Muhr was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1965 at the age of 21. He trained as a combat platoon leader for the Army.
While in Vietnam, Muhr was injured twice in the same day. On March 10, 1968, Muhr, a platoon leader with the 9th Infantry, led an attack on 10 enemy bunkers. He was injured when shots flew from the jungle.
“I said, ‘We got to get out of here because we are too close,’” he said.
Muhr was struck in the left shoulder by an AK-47 bullet that exited out the middle of his back.
“A millimeter either way, and I would have been dead or paralyzed,” Muhr said.
On the same day, he was struck by grenade shrapnel.
He was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.
“The highest privilege of my life was leading men in combat,” Muhr said.
Today, Muhr keeps the medals hidden away on a shelf in a closet.
“I should be proud of these things, and I am, but I am not ready to display them,” he said. The reason for his reluctance to show the awards is because of how he was treated when he returned home.
Back from Vietnam, Muhr hid the fact he was a veteran, as did most who were greeted by hate from Americans.
“You had to hide the fact you were a Vietnam veteran,” he said. “We went because we were told to, and when we came back, people would spit on us.”
Even today, Muhr rarely wears his Purple Heart hat because of the attention it draws.
“Maybe one day,” he said.
Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an every day struggle for Muhr, who went back to Vietnam in May with nine other veterans to heal old wounds.
“You go over there a boy and come back a man,” he said. “It changes you and your friends don’t understand at the time.”
Muhr said locals greeted him warmly in Vietnam.
“Forty years has healed that nation, but not a lot of us here have healed,” he said. “Every combat veteran goes through it, the fighting is still going on in their minds.”
Muhr said more people should get involved, either volunteering or serving in the military.
“We have a privilege in this country and to understand this privilege we should require one to two years of service for the government, so people understand what it is to serve,” Muhr said. “Right now more people are getting than serving.”
Veterans Day programs
Veterans will be honored in special programs around the community on Tuesday.
The main event will be the town’s program Tuesday at Payson High School.
The town’s Veterans Day 2008 program will be presented at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 11 at the Payson High School Auditorium.
The theme this year is “The Price of Freedom.”
“All citizens are invited to join with friends and neighbors to commemorate those who have defended, and continue to defend, the standards and values upon which our country was founded, and renew our resolve in support of our American way of life,” said chairman of the Payson Patriotic Events Committee, retired Col. Bill Sahno, USMC.
For more information, contact Sahno at (928) 472-6617.
Powell House program
The Powell House, 806 W. Longhorn Road, near the intersection of McLane and Longhorn, will host a program on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. Activities include several patriotic songs, flag-raising, speakers from the Payson Police and Fire departments, chamber of commerce, Elks Lodge, pastors and the U.S. Marines Corps.
“We want people to understand that it only takes a small slice of their time to attend and show their support,” Sahno said.
Poppies for Veterans
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9829 of Payson will be distributing Poppies for Veterans and conducting a membership drive over Veterans Day Weekend — Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7-9.
Elks Lodge hosts Veterans Day Dinner
The Elks Veterans Day Dinner will be served Saturday, Nov. 8. The evening starts with a no-host bar from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., followed by a ceremony at 5:30. Dinner will be served from 6 to 7 p.m., with music by Larry Ellis. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the bar. Active duty personnel, in uniform, will eat for free. The lodge is located at 1206 N. Beeline Highway.
Tonto Basin celebrates Veterans Day
Tonto Basin will host its annual Veterans Day Celebration Tuesday, Nov. 11. The pancake breakfast begins at 7 a.m. and ends 10 a.m. at the Kiwanis building in Punkin Center.
The theme for this year’s parade is “God Bless America’s Armed Forces.” The parade begins at 11 a.m. from the north end of Punkin Center and proceeds south to the Marine Corps League complex.
Weather permitting, there will be a flyover made possible by a group of pilots who fly Stearman Boeing Model 75 1941 and 1943 planes.
The Stearmans, painted in military colors, will be flying from north to south over Punkin Center at 9:45 a.m. by pilots Billy Walker, Terry Emig, Roger Parrish, Larry Dustman and Joe Sottile.