BY KATHLEEN GEST
---- — It is especially the words, “We will remember them,” in the fourth verse of “For the Fallen” by poet Laurence Binyon that play a significant role in the initiation of Veterans Day.
Nov. 11, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I, the day offers a tribute to those who serve or have served on land, sea and in the air.
“I think about Memorial Day as the time to honor all the folks who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. However, I consider Veterans Day a little differently in that it honors folks who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but it also honors anyone who has made any sacrifice wearing the uniform,” said Cmdr. Sean Cross, of the Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City.
“I tell my guys all of the time that the things we do in the Coast Guard have inherent risk – in almost a similar level to combat in some cases," he said. "Going out on a dark stormy night in a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft has a lot of risk to it. We have lost a couple of crews over the last five years and that proves my point. There’s sacrifice no matter what uniform you wear and you don’t necessarily have to be in a combat situation to have made a sacrifice or made a difference.”
Cross is the guest speaker at the Senior Center Network and Reynolds Jonkhoff Funeral Home celebration of Veterans Day. The event takes place at the Elks Club on Nov. 5.
Cross’s career decision was influenced by his father, who was an aviator in the Coast Guard.
“I always thought what my dad did for a career was a noble and honest profession,” Cross said. “Saving lives appealed to me. Since I wanted to be a pilot from an early age, when it came time for me to decide what I wanted to do, the mission of the Coast Guard, especially Coast Guard aviation, really appealed to me.”
Even though he is not flying the life saving SAR (Search and Rescue) missions anymore, there are highlights in his career he is proud to remember. One was during Hurricane Sandy when the HMS Bounty sank. Four of his Elizabeth City, N.C., crews participated in the operation. During the difficult and challenging weather, the crews saved 14 people.
“Obviously, as I go back through my career, I am very proud of the crews I was a part of that went out and did similar missions, saving lives and property at sea,” Cross said. “I think that’s what all coast guard people identify most with and what they are proudest about, bringing someone’s mother or father, son or daughter back from peril on the ocean or on the lakes.”
Cross calls it an honor and a privilege to be the commanding officer of any military unit and is excited to be at the Traverse City Air Station as its commander. He has discovered an absolutely top-notch group of men and women who are with the Coast Guard here.
The Senior Center Network Veterans Day event is to let all veterans know that their service to our country does not go unnoticed or unappreciated – and to show we are excessively proud of them.
Admission costs $6 for veterans and $13 for guests. Doors open at 5 p.m. at the Elks Club and the program starts at 6 p.m. Reservations are required for the event, as there is limited seating. For reservations and more information, contact the Traverse City Senior Center at 922-4911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.