Veterans Day doesn’t generate the same fervor in Oregon as in some states, mainly because there aren’t large military bases here nor the large veteran population that usually forms around major installations.
But Oregon is home to one significant figure from America’s recent military history, retired four-star Air Force Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak. He’s a Northern California native and graduate of Grants Pass High School who retired to Lake Oswego after a long, celebrated career in the U.S. Air Force.
“We build bases close to the threat, as close as we safely can,” he said recently. “And the good news is that there hasn’t been any threat to Oregon for a long time, and so we haven’t built any bases here.”
As a fighter pilot, McPeak flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam and was Air Force chief of staff during the first Gulf War.
So what are his thoughts this Veterans Day?
“Too often Veterans Day turns into a hymn of praise for war,” he said. “From my standpoint, war is overall not a very good thing. It ought to be a last resort, so let’s not celebrate it. Let’s celebrate the people who participated.”
In his 25 years of retirement in Lake Oswego, he’s straddled the political aisle, campaigning for Republicans like Bob Dole and Democrats like Barack Obama.