My wife Jean said to me, “In the midst of all that is going on in America today – the turmoil in the economy, the discussions of recent national and local elections, the struggle between conflicting morals – it is my prayer and hope that Veterans Day 2012 won’t be seen as a background shadow instead of placed in the spotlight it deserves.”
Jean is a real patriot. She frequently cries when someone sings an especially meaningful rendition of our National Anthem – or sees the flag blowing in the wind during an instrumental version – or sees our beloved American bald eagle Challenger from Sevier County (TN) flying at sporting events. She cries and is proud of it. I’m proud of her for doing it.
I’ve seen similar reactions by others when I have told about an experience Jean had outside a local supermarket a few years ago. As I prepare to serve as master of ceremonies for Gatlinburg’s 10th Annual Veterans Day Program, Sunday, November 11, 2:00 PM, at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, I want to share Jean’s experience now.
Approaching the supermarket entrance, Jean saw an elderly gentleman she had seen before. He often stationed himself at a strategic location to collect donations for the Disabled American Veterans Association. She walked up to him, donated to the cause, hugged him and said, “I want you to know how much I appreciate you and all veterans. You are very special.”
The gentleman’s eyes welled-up. He said, “You don’t know how much I needed to hear that. Especially today. Usually I don’t ask anyone for a donation. I just stand here with the table and the sign. However, when a woman came this way a few minutes ago, I asked her if she would care to donate something. Not even pausing, she just replied, ‘Huh! What have you ever done for me?’”
The man swallowed and then continued, “Well, it’s not like me to say something like this, but I just shot back, ‘Lady, me and thousands of others put our lives on the line for you.’” The elderly veteran told Jean that the woman who reproached him was middle-aged and certainly should have know better than to say what she did.
Sometimes people just don’t think. We take things for granted. Maybe the reason some people discount the heroics of veterans, especially veterans of foreign wars, is because the wars are just that – foreign. Maybe it would take a magnification of September 11, 2001, a full-blown, nation-wide attack on America for some people to appreciate what the military does. Maybe if the woman who reproached the veteran was attacked by foreign enemies as she entered the store, she might better appreciate the meaning of Veterans Day.
Jean wrote a poem back in 2002 titled “America’s Real Heroes” and read it at the first City of Gatlinburg Veterans Day Program. In part, it reads: “Men and women of every race and creed – have fought for America – the land of the freed. The ultimate sacrifice – is what many have paid. You can see all the graves – where each one is laid. Those who came back – are never the same – after all of the horror – after all of the pain. They gave of themselves – to defend you and me – to protect our land – to keep us free!”
Former President Ronald Reagan made a profound statement when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction…” He added, “When we pass the torch of freedom to the next generation, it should be burning as brightly as when it was passed to us. Then we will know we have kept faith with Americans who went before us and we will have kept faith with God.”
Veterans lit the torch. Veterans-to-be will keep it burning. It is up to you and me to support them.
© 2012 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. The www.MyMerlin.net free mentoring and self-help site is based on his A Strategy For Winning book and program. E-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or view www.carlmays.com. Visit Facebook Carl Mays and Facebook MyMerlin.
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