“Let us remember (that) a veteran is someone who at one time, or point in their life, wrote a blank check – a check payable to the United States for an amount up to and including their life.”
Those were the poignant words of Leonard Rusher, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Addison Township’s historic Lakeville Cemetery.
As they do every year, veterans, public safety personnel and citizens gathered to pay tribute to the selfless men and women in uniform who sacrificed their lives so that future generations could enjoy freedom, security and peace.
Without their courage and willingness to fight and die, Rusher said today’s world might be ruled by Nazis, communists or terrorists.
“We are here today to say thank you to the ones who have fallen,” he said. “We say ‘thank you’ for what they have given.”
Rusher, who served in the army from 1982 to 2016, is currently the director of the Michigan Veteran Education Initiative, a program through the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA).
The MVAA assists veterans in the areas of education, employment, health care and quality-of-life issues.
“That’s our sole purpose,” Rusher said.
Rusher was disappointed to learn that despite the MVAA’s best efforts, there are still veterans who fall through the cracks.
“Even though we have these resources, we are not making that connection,” he said. “We are not doing everything that we can do to ensure that our veterans are taken care of.”
Rusher pledged to relay the concerns and stories he heard from veterans attending the ceremony to the people he works with at the MVAA.
“We need to pay attention to exactly what’s going on,” he said. “Give us a call because that’s what we’re here for.”