Veterans Affairs Office executive officer Stanley T. Iakopo, who is a veteran himself, spoke of the unique insights of veterans at the at the Veterans Day ceremony last Nov. 11 at the American Memorial Park by urging people to ask themselves the question: “How does it feel to enjoy freedom at the expense of a veteran’s life?”
Iakopo said that the freedoms today that so many people enjoy is because of the men and women who “are willing to give their lives for you.”
Citing a poem penned by Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez from the early ’90s, Iakopo asked: “Have you forgotten who I am? What I stand for? And where I’ve been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea, Vietnam. Take a good look one of these days…at the memorial honor roll…of all the names that never came back.”
He pointed out that people usually have different reactions when they find out that someone is enlisting versus when they come back from deployment. “When a family member joins the military, we celebrate. Families throw parties. …These new recruits are the pride of their communities across the country or the Pacific Islands, but when they return, they don’t get that warmth. No appreciation, no incentives, no discounts, and no support. All they get is a mere thank you for your service, if they’re lucky,” said Iakopo, adding that there are veterans who bring physical pains and emotional scars back home, while everyone else enjoys freedom every day, and our veterans “pay dearly for every freedom.”
“There is a bond between veterans because they have to suffer the wounds of war. The sacrifices they made, friends they’ve lost, not being there during the birth of their son or daughter, missing wedding anniversaries, to name a few things,” said Iakopo. “…We should take a minute to imagine what it would be like to not be able to be here today.”
Iakopo pointed out that freedom gives us the privilege to do what we want, wherever we want, freedom to worship how we want, but most especially, the freedom to speak.
He said the Northern Marianas owes a lot to its veterans. “Many veterans sacrifice their health, their limbs, their mental wellbeing and, most of all, some gave the ultimate, their life. We could only imagine the agony of war. Our veterans lived it,” he said.