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Observations on Veteran’s Day

On Friday, November 11, our nation celebrated Veteran’s Day. In the town where I live and serve, the city took some time to dedicate a new memorial dedicated to the veterans, both living and dead, who have defended our freedom. As I stood in the overflow crowd, barely hearing the speakers for the distance, there were a few things that made lasting impressions on me.

First, I was reminded that my little niche of men were fortunate to grow up and pass through the age of selective service registration while our nation was not at war. That is not to say that men my age have not and are not serving, but to note I was born in a very narrow strip of time that allowed me to never worry about either being drafted or deployed other than by my own choice. From the time my dad returned from Vietnam until the Gulf War started, we lived in an unprecedented era of peace. I feel very grateful and very unworthy when I stand with a gathering of veterans and their families.

I was struck by the statement above the entrance to the memorial – “Freedom is Not Free.” Enough said. Our freedom in Christ was not free and our freedom as a nation was not free. That was particularly evident in the scars and crutches and wheelchairs wielded by men who once wielded guns to purchase and protect that freedom. That story is being played out as you read this in places like Afghanistan and Libya and Iraq.

Respect is not a word you hear or see in action much these days. Respect was present in spades on this Veteran’s Day. I saw a young man in uniform, there as a spectator, take it on himself to clear the way for men in wheelchairs and on walkers to get closer to the speaker. I saw it when the crowd parted for the Rolling Thunder Chapter to present the service flags. It was evident when the band played the service anthems and one by one, men stood to honor their branch of service and the crowd looked at them with what can only be described as respect. If ever there is anyone who as a group deserve our respect, it is our veterans. It was a high and holy moment for me.

I became a fan of Congressman Phil Roe when he made a few remarks. His assertion that being a fiscal conservative is not a license to balance our budget on the backs of our service men and women, coupled with his transparency in his faith when he prayed for our veterans and our nation, made me hope to be in East Tennessee long enough to vote for him.

I grieved a few minutes as I stood there. In addition to the empathy I felt for the men and women who stood there with tears for their fallen loved ones, I grieved for those affected in other ways by war. There is a reason they say “war is hell.” Not all casualties are evident in missing limbs and tombstones. Men and women come back different from war. Often, their families are the casualties of war. We see that in the growing number of vets who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I hear it when young men just back from Iraq have a hard time being transparent with their spouses and embracing their children. It shows up in the divorce rate among veterans. It is proven by the thousands of homeless veterans living under bridges in our major cities. I grieved for them. They don’t feel much respect and honor on these special days. In fact, their goal is just getting through the day. While you honor veterans this week, think of them.

I am thankful to be an American, thankful to be free, and thankful for veterans this week.

As the younger bloggers say, “I’m just saying….”

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