By Selwyn Harris
As Nevada’s chief elections officer, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller spent this year’s election season urging all Silver State residents to get out and vote.
The vote not only determines which candidates get elected but it also reminds family and friends about the sacrifices Americans make to protect freedom at home and around the world.
For the first time, Miller invited Nevada voters to “Vote to Honor a Service Member.”
On the secretary of state’s website, Miller said the program is designed to recognize the service and dedication of the brave men and women who are or have served in the armed forces by encouraging voters to cast their ballot in the names of those who are fighting to defend liberty and protect the right to vote among other hard-fought liberties.
“I invite Nevadans to show their support for a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a military unit by submitting a personal message or tribute. Whether you are honoring someone who served decades ago or an active duty member of our military, this is an excellent way to recognize their invaluable contribution. Ultimately, it’s our military that has protected our system of democracy for more than 200 years. We should all be reminded of that,” he said.
On the secretary of state’s website, individuals from across the state have posted messages saluting military personnel of all types. The program has attracted such quality memorials in its inaugural debut that the secretary of state plans to continue the program in future elections.
Many of the messages are emotional and others are posted posthumously. Ruth Vasquez, for example, honored Sgt. Brett Lawrence Jr., who served in the U.S. Army.
“He served two tours in Iraq, totaling 27 months, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. Brett was a courageous young man with a heart of gold who fought for our country to protect our freedom. Rest in peace; you will never be forgotten,” the message read.
The website doesn’t say where in Nevada the voters are from.
Nicole Vaeth honored a family member who is serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Within her remarks, she noted that sometimes they did not always see eye to eye on things.
“In honor of my brother who has devoted his life to God and the service of the people of the United States. We may not always agree politically, but I love you and appreciate your commitment to a better world,” Vaeth wrote.
Cynthia McDonald honored her son Chance McDonald who is a military policeman in the U.S. Army who enlisted more than eight years ago.
She noted that her son has traveled throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
“My son enlisted in 2004 right out of high school. Within a few months he was in Iraq. He spent one year there and then back to Germany to train for his next mission, Afghanistan. He spent 18 months there. Now he will be returning from Korea on Nov. 6. Of the eight years serving, he has spent six out of this great country, and is willing to do it all again if asked.
“He has re-enlisted for three more years. He loves his job. My husband also spent 20 years serving this great country. I can vote because they served,” she wrote.
Diane L. Mortensen honored Robert Tom T. Lockett, who served combat duty in the U.S. Marine Corps five decades ago.
Her post also contained a message for the entire U.S. military regarding a chemical defoliant used during what was by many accounts, an unpopular war.
“I met ‘Tom’ in 1960, when I was 13 years old. We went ‘steady’ until he left for Vietnam in 1963. We remained friends through the years, and although we never married, I truly believe I was his best friend and confidante. He told me of the terror he experienced when the fields were sprayed with Agent Orange. The U.S sprayed 20 million gallons over forests in Vietnam, and as a result, members of the armed forces were exposed to it. The sadness he witnessed and the pain he experienced when he was diagnosed with cancer and the military refused to acknowledge any link with Agent Orange. Never any assistance for the medical care, etc., that he needed.
“The fear of losing friends and buddies, who became terribly ill from this horrible chemical. He was a changed person when he came home and a certain pain in his eyes, never left him. I honor him now, as he was never honored the way our troops are honored today. Tom lost his life to cancer last year. He donated his body to science so that others might survive in the future,” Mortensen wrote.
Though most of the tributes were from women honoring male service members, at least one message came from Rex Eugene Pickett, a husband who spoke about his wife, an officer in the U.S. Air Force.
“I vote to honor my wife, Colonel Heather Pickett, who has served our country faithfully for over 20 years. Her dedication to God, country, family and the Air Force is remarkable. I am so proud of the love of my life. She strives to always do the right thing despite the cost. The Air Force will be losing a great leader and physician upon her retirement. Aiden, Brenna and I will be blessed to be spending more time with Heather,” he wrote.
More than two dozen messages have been posted so far on the website.
The following are a sampling of more:
Gail R. Larson honors Todd M. Larson, U.S. Air Force.
“As a mom, my heart bursts with pride knowing my son, Todd, along with all military personnel worldwide protect our country each and every day.”
Eric Prunty honors Staff Sgt. Jeremy Newton, U.S. Marine Corps.
“Jeremy has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Marine Corps for 11 years. I am voting in his honor because his courage and sacrifice to US citizens of this great country grant us the right to vote and determine our course ahead, and freely choose our future.”
Janet A. Conrad-McCarthy honors Christopher Hall, U.S. Navy.
“This Navy service member has matured from an eager young boy into a dedicated young man since joining the U.S. Navy. His community is very proud of him and what he does to insure our freedom.”
Sandra Enyeart honors Col. John A. Broshek, U.S. Air Force.
“My father, Col. John A. Broshek, was a career officer in the Air Force. He served during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He loved this country and his family and voting is one way I can honor his memory.”
Kristol Bradley Ginapp honors Bill L. Bradley, Sr., U.S. Navy and Kenneth Kunnemann, U.S. Marine Corps.
“I am voting in honor of both of my grandfathers who bravely served during the Korean War.”
Sharlea Taft honors Percy Stevenson, U.S. Army.
“My grandfather proudly served his country for twenty years and is no longer with us. I honor him with my vote because he served to keep this country free.”
David R. Evans, U.S. Army.
“Everyone has a duty to vote.”
Marjorie V. Hopkins honors Frank Long Noble & Charles Clayton Noble, U.S. Air Force.
“My brother Frank is enlisted retired USAF, serving from 1961-1994. He currently resides in Marysville, WA. My brother Charles also enlisted and served from 1972-1975. Due to a severe injury, he had to leave the service. He currently resides in Silver Springs, NV. Both brothers served on the ‘flight line’ and service included time in Korea. Charles also served in Vietnam. I am proud of the service both have given to our country.”