Harriman: Honor families of veterans, too

TUPPER LAKE – Veterans Day isn’t just about honoring veterans; it’s also for honoring their families.

U.S. Army veteran George Harriman got that message across when he spoke during Monday’s Veterans Day memorial service at the veterans monument next to the State Theater on Park Street.

The crowd of more than 200 people listened as Harriman explained the sacrifice made by those who love someone serving in the military. He said there are 25 million veterans living among us, and there are 500,000 children from the 2.5 million men and women serving in the military today.

“The gratitude we give to the men and women serving our country would be incomplete if we did not also extend that gratitude to their families,” Harriman said.

That statement hit home for Harriman when his own son, Mitch, told him he was considering joining the service.

“That possibility scared me more than getting my orders to go to Vietnam,” Harriman said. “Having my own son contemplate military service was not something I was prepared for.”

Harriman arrived in Vietnam in 1970 and worked as an air traffic controller in the Mekong Delta, supporting field operations along the Cambodian border. When he returned home he attended North Country Community College and Potsdam State University, and he has since taught science at Tupper Lake High School for 36 years.

Harriman said his father wrote him letters every day he served in Vietnam.

“It’s sad we live in a world where we have to send our children off to fight in wars, when it would be so much better to just get along,” Harriman said.

He explained that parents of soldiers think of their children constantly. It’s their first thought in the morning and their last thought before they go to sleep.

Sometimes, the children are the ones left behind by those serving.

“When these parents are deployed, those children are forced to serve their own duty,” Harriman said. “In some cases, these children don’t have a parent to help them with homework, to tuck them in at night, to make sure they get up for school, or even sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ To them, a parent is simply not there.”

Harriman implored the crowd to stop and give thanks for those families and added that in Tupper Lake, family and community are one in the same.

“So, on this Veterans Day, yes, please recognize our military vets and the families attached to them who value our country, who had to put their lives on hold, and in jeopardy, so we could live free,” Harriman said. “Those families are the backbone to those who protect our country.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.