Veterans Day: A Tribute to our Armed Forces

One Friday morning not too long ago, I sat in a School Auditorium and listened to poems and songs in honor of those who have served in our military. The first and second grade sang songs. My daughter’s class, who was in the third grade at the time, recited a poem. The fourth grade recited the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Kindergartner’s delivered the Gettysburg Address.

The fifth grade sang, “Proud to be an American.” Then, members of the High School band played The Star-Spangled Banner after each branch of the military’s anthem was played through the sound system as members of those branches stood to be recognized.

If you have children in Elementary School, I am confident that most of you had the same Veterans Day Assembly experience I had. But the question I have for you is, did it move you?

Does the steadfastness of our Constitution give you chills?

The Preamble itself is filled with declarations that are summed up in six essentials: Unity, Justice, Tranquility, Defense, Welfare, and Blessing.  All these things early Americans held sacred. They no longer wanted to live life under a supreme ruler and grew fed up with taxation without representation. They were being told, “this is how it is going to be, and you have no say so in the matter.”

Realizing that their whole reason for coming to the new world, to get away from tyranny, was still being forced upon them. They had to make a stand. And they stood. It all began with 52 words.

Words have the power to ignite a person’s soul. If it were not for the minds that wrote these words of declaration, the cause would have never been made into something tangible. America would not be here today, well in its current form, if it were not for those who fought for a cause that was specifically lined out. The names of those who fought are figuratively signed at the bottom of the preamble in the blood of those who died.

Do Lincoln’s words make you think?

On November 19, 1963, President Lincoln delivers a speech at the dedication of a once battlefield, now cemetery for those who lost their lives in the Civil War.  Lincoln begins his speech with a reminder of why this country was established.  Lincoln continues, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

Men and women died in defense of a belief in 1775-1783 during the Revolutionary War. They fought and won freedom from tyranny. The children and grandchildren of those fought and died for a belief in 1861-1865. They fought and won freedom for equality. The idea of standing up for beliefs was ingrained in citizens of the U.S. From the time of the Forefathers, to Lincoln, to present day.  People choose freedom, even to the point of dying for those beliefs.

Do those who have fought make you feel thankful?

Wars have come, and wars have gone. From both world wars to the more recent wars in the Middle East. Still, men and women fight to keep our freedoms safe. They even fight to help others realize their freedoms. They choose to accept the responsibility of providing for common defense. If they did not believe in those freedoms, then they would not desire to pick up arms to defend them.

It is sad to me that those who choose the honor of representing our country get ridiculed, mocked, and words put into their mouths. Many would have you believe that every member of the armed forces is being coerced into get on a cargo plane, shipped to a foreign land, given a gun, and told to hunt down an innocent enemy. These generic spokesmen fill the papers, news feeds, and airwaves with tales of soldiers not wanting to fight, even with all evidence to the contrary.

The irony here is that the naysayers are trying to stifle the very ones who provided them the ability to exercise their freedom of being able to stifle them. These men and women in uniform could choose not to fight. They could be relieved of their weapon, forfeit their rank, and surrender their uniform. But they don’t.

Trump is right, these men and women know what they sign up for. In fact, to them, it would be a great honor to die in a fight for freedom. Of course, no one wants to be killed, but they know there is that risk, and accept it with open arms.

These men and women are just like you and me. They have parents, they grew up, went to school, got braces, had acne, went through puberty, and messed up countless times. Just ordinary human beings, but they felt a calling to service. The desire overcame the cost, and they chose to enlist. There are no supermen among them. At least that is what they would say.

Still, they make a conscious decision to sign up, battle through basic training, endure the advanced training, and put themselves at risk for each of us. Often get separated from family for long periods of time, they see children grow up via photos and video chat. They are doing something I could never do.   

When I see a uniform, fatigues, or even a window decal I feel indebted to that person. If it were not for their sacrifices, you would not be reading these words I am writing to you now. And to those who turn up a nose, whisper a curse, or take a knee… you should be ashamed of yourself. Even if you have the freedom to do so.

The greatest thing in all of that, those that serve could care less. They know that the freedom they are fighting for is the very freedom you are using to scorn them. If the freedom to mock them were taken away, then what are they fighting for in the first place?

Does Lee Greenwood’s song make you stand taller?

I am old enough to remember when “God Bless the USA” was released. Although, it was a sad year for my family. My father, an Air Force veteran, died that year after a short battle with cancer. I don’t know if he ever got to hear that song before he passed, but I know for a fact it would have made him proud.

My greatest memory of the song was the Fourth of July celebration my church would have every year. One of the choir members would sing that song, and it touched my heart every time, even as a 10-year-old boy. I still get chills every time I hear the intro and must turn up the volume and sing along.

It is disappointing that it takes a national tragedy for Americans to come together and unite in pride for the U.S. After 9/11, pride exuded from everyone’s pores in this country. It was echoed from the abundance of car flags to musicians writing and recording songs in support of our country defending itself.

Putting a boot in someone’s ass became a catchphrase, people were proud to live where the stars and stripes and eagles fly, and everyone remembered where they were when the world stopped turning.

Now it’s more like, have we forgotten?

American soldiers took up arms and defended us from the atrocious act that was taken against us. And we were proud to send them off in defense of the lives that were stolen. Yes, many of them did pay the ultimate price, but again, they were honored to make that sacrifice if it meant that we here in the states would be protected through their sacrifice.

Do the anthem and the flag bring you to tears?

I live in south Texas. We love High School football. Every Friday night, you can expect half the town to attend the local Varsity game. One of our sons played wide receiver, so yes, we were at every game. Now, being in South Texas, at a High School Varsity game, you know they are going to begin with the National Anthem.

The marching band, in which another son plays French horn, gets things going with a drum roll as local Air Force cadets march out the flags in cadence. Once they reach the 50-yard line, another flag is raised at the north end of the field. Then our Mighty Indian Band honors the flag, and those who enabled it to be raised, with The Star-Spangled Banner.

This is one place where you will NEVER see anyone taking a knee.

Although the anthem was not adopted until 1931, the poem itself existed over 100 years before. In 1814, after an American victory at the Battle of Ft. McHenry, Francis Scott Key penned the inspiring words of what he witnessed. His amazement was over the flag that still stood erect after the heated battle was won. In the darkness, he would not know who won the battle until the next morning, the ‘dawn’s early light.’ When the sun rose, he saw the American flag waving victoriously. And he was moved.

Does seeing the American flag wave in the breeze move you the way it moved Francis Scott Key? Do you think about those men and women who made the sacrifice that allows that flag to be raised? Are you thankful for the freedom you live under that others have provided?

Final Thoughts

Don’t allow Veterans Day to become a once a year event. Every time you pass a courthouse, school, or business that has Ole’ Glory on display, remember those who have chosen to represent those who have chosen not to or been unable to. Thank the Lord that you live in a country that allows us the freedoms to worship in the manner we chose. That we can stand up and voice our opinion without fear of reprisal, and that those who oppose that view have the same freedom to express themselves.

Take the time to thank a veteran. Shake their hand, look them in the eye, and express your gratitude for their service. They may not seek the spotlight, but they will be grateful that someone took notice and acknowledges their untold sacrifices.

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