There are a lot of people in my life to whom I’m indebted. My parents of course, for without them, where would I be? Some of my teachers who helped me to love learning and reinforced rules I first learned at home. My first boss, who hired me to work at a radio station at age 14 that would pay for my education. I’m still amazed that I was given a key to a radio station at 14 to go in, turn it on, and operate it. I’d be reluctant to give a 14 year old a key to the men’s room, much less a radio station! My boyhood pastor and youth pastors who reminded me that life was not limited to planet earth and its treasures or its tragedies. My wife who has put up with me for over 43 years and with whom we share 3 great adult children, and the 6 cutest grandkids ever. But there’s a group of people to whom I owe my physical life and the great joy of my liberty—the men and women of our military whose service and sacrifice provide my next breath of freedom.
Younger people have no idea what a military draft even is—when the government simply called up 18 year old men and said, “Congratulations! As if they had just won the lottery. And they did..since there was a lottery that picked the birthdays of who would be called and when. The draft ended 6 months before my 18th birthday. And by then, with the Vietnam War winding down and the military drastically downsizing, even my participation in college ROTC was short-lived. The Colonel looked at my flat feet and unceremoniously told me to quit wasting my time and the government’s money because the military didn’t need me, didn’t want me, and wouldn’t have me. That turned out to be great preparation for when voters would later tell me the same thing.
We’ve had an all-volunteer military since 1973. And somehow we’ve managed to recruit enough of our fellow Americans who are willing to forego the freedoms we take for granted and stand in the very path of evil to push it back and defeat it. Today, less than ½ of 1% currently serve and just over 7% have ever served. A very few among us have carried the load for the rest of us.
You’d think we’d treat them like royalty and with the deference and honor they have earned. But many of them wait in line for months for the medical treatment they were promised. Others come back from combat without physical scars, but with deep trauma to their souls from PTS—Post Traumatic Stress. I try to avoid calling it a disorder, because these folks don’t need a label as much as they need treatment, understanding, and deep appreciation. This is Veterans Day and we dedicate this hour to some people you already know and love, and to some others you need to know and whom you will love before tonight is over.
I don’t hide my deep gratitude for those who have served in our military, be it the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or those under-appreciated tough hombres of the US Coast Guard. To me, they are the real heroes of America—not the entertainers, politicians, sports figures, or celebrities. A sign I saw this week pretty much summed up my feelings—it simply said: “A man with a helmet defending our country should make more money than a man with a helmet defending a football.”
If I take a knee, it will never be to disrespect our flag, our national anthem, or those who fought to provide our freedom. It will be in respect and awe of the veterans to whom we owe a debt we can never repay.
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