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I am privileged to be a veteran. “Privileged” meaning I and all my fellow veterans came home. We all know some who did not come home, or were shipped home because they gave their last full measure of devotion. For many reasons, not the least of which is our mutual respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, veterans wonder about our day. Then those of us who are blessed with good health think about veterans who have paid with their blood, limbs and families, though we know we are vets, we also know others paid a much more dear price for the title.
Men and women have deployed and returned to find their home cleaned out, spouse gone with the kids and divorce papers waiting for them. They have fought hard, forsaking all for freedom. Each engagement takes part of you, changes you, sometimes warps you. These are strong people. They have challenges but they make me proud to be an American. They have hurdles to overcome, but they have my greatest respect. These are fathers, brothers, mothers and sisters. They are sons and daughters of the finest most giving people in America. Folks, they are all volunteers.
In a discussion with a fellow veteran the other day we came to a mutual agreement; we would probably never file for the disability for which we might both qualify. The veteran in this conversation was actually wounded in combat, suffered wounds, feels the pains of the jumps he has made. There are many out there who would never want to be considered in the same league as our brother or sister who lost a leg, an arm or both. We recognize we are not worthy.
When I think about veterans I see men who are driven. Those in the service organizations work hard to continue serving their communities, the families, the youth and each other. One of our greatest honors as a veteran is working with youth, promoting excellence in education, contributions these young people can make in our great nation or even in our hometowns. Veterans want to help our upcoming generations appreciate their blessings to be an American, develop strong patriotic spirits and work ethics that honor those who have paid for our freedom on the battlefield. Some of these young people will serve too.
Veterans celebrate Veteran’s Day because we still have something to give and are dedicated to giving, serving and providing. We volunteer to fight for America’s freedom for a number of reasons, and we serve in America voluntarily to promote that freedom. The Christian heritage in America is rich and provides the driving force of selfless service in every veteran. Regardless the reason for initially entering military service, one recognizes the truth of servitude and volunteerism. We are friends, we are family, we are co-workers and neighbors one to another. We know it is still up to us to ensure every veteran knows they have comrades that understand and appreciate them and their service.
Veterans Day is a time to honor every service member who fought over the last 237 years for our nation. The Armed Forces have seen millions of our citizens’ sacrifice themselves. The red on our flag is not stagnant; it flows. Where the blue provides cohesion through vigilance, perseverance and justice to the stars, the valorous red washes each white stripe regularly to maintain purity. Our flag begins with our blood and ends with it. We think on those things on Veteran’s Day.
Veterans prefer not to fight. Because of what Veterans have done many foes run from us. Many run from our power, from our strength, from our dedication to freedom. No foe has gone unpunished. No foe has ever conquered us. The American Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and even our great Coast Guard have all demonstrated excellence, pride and the will to defeat those who oppose us. Those facts are well known. As Marine Corps General James Mattis recently said, “Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” Having power does not mean it has to be used, but it must be respected. Veterans know when our military is respected our country is freer, safer and more prosperous.
You have heard this for the past few years, we are quickly loosing our World War II Veterans; men and women who fought for freedom against tyranny. We lost one May 21st; Army Technical Sergeant Vernon McGarity was seriously wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. He refused medical evacuation continuing to fight on the Western offensive rescuing two wounded men under withering fire. He directed cannon fire destroying enemy artillery positions and personally eliminated enemy machine gun positions. Only with all ammunition expended did they loose ground, and were captured. McGarity was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. He served the Tennessee National Guard for 28 years, worked for over 30 years for the Veterans Administration in Memphis helping fellow servicemen and women. Selfless service marked his life.
God has seen fit to give us a new generation of battle seasoned Veterans through the War on Terror and its associated engagements. On April 15, 2013 two cowards detonated bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three innocent people were killed and hundereds wounded; fifteen lost limbs. Two Marines, Captain Cameron West and retired Sergeant Gabriel Martinez were just two of many wounded warriors to visit those who suffered in the Boston Marathon attack. West had lost his right leg during action in Afghanistan and Martinez lost both legs in combat. These men encouraged the victims of April 15, continuing to serve selflessly. They encouraged the wounded, “After this, you’ll be more independent than you ever were. This isn’t the end. This is the beginning,” Martinez told one lady who had lost both legs.
The most challenging thing to my heart is what John McCain said to then Governor Ronald Reagan when McCain returned from the Hanoi Hilton in 1974. Governor Reagan asked “Where do we find such men?” Then Navy Commander McCain answered, “We find them in our streets, in the offices, the shops and working places of our country and on the farms.”
As we consider our veterans, consider the treasures they leave on foreign soils such that we may enjoy treasures at home. Men and women of our armed forces, I am proud to call you brothers and sisters in arms. I salute you, your sacrifices and your families. It is a distinct honor to have served along side you in foreign lands, and to continue serving with you at home. God bless you.