Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day 2008

Today we should all pause from the busyness of everyday life to take a moment to just be thankful for all that we have and for the brave men and women who defend --have defended-- our great nation and who through their efforts and sacrifice preserve our American way of life.

Today is Veteran's Day. One special day, each year, where we set aside time to thank the many brave men and women who have served, or are currently serving, in our armed forces. These soldiers put their lives on the line to defend the American ideals of FREEDOM and our very way of life. God bless them, each and every one, for their service to their country. We are forever in their debt!


Let us think of these brave men and women and say a special prayer of thanks, not just today, but each time we see an American flag dancing freely, boldly in the passing breeze, each time we cast our voter ballot in an election, each time we see our children run and play safely --freely-- in the streets of our hometowns, and each time we are free to enter a religious house of worship of our own choosing. Let us be proud to be Americans! Let us celebrate not just our freedom to disagree (politically), but also that which we have in common: our love of our great nation and its underlying principles "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

We do live in a great nation! It was great those many, many years ago when these words of the "Declaration of Independence" were written. It was a great nation on 9/11/2001. It was a great nation on 11/03/2008. It is still a great nation today on 11/11/2008. God Bless the USA and the brave men and women who have defended her and who continue to defend her today. God Bless the families of these brave soldiers as well -- their personal sacrifices do not go unnoticed nor unappreciated. May God keep this nation strong.  May God bless her leaders with wisdom to do what is right and just, even if it seems unpopular at the time.

God bless my husband who has served in the U.S. Army, my father who served in the U.S. Air Force for over 20 years, the husband of my children's dance teacher who serves in the U.S. Army --currently deployed in Iraq-- and all veterans of all ages, in all branches of service. Amen.

For more interesting info on the history of Veteran's Day visit: http://www.history.com/minisites/veteransday/
P.S. I'll never forget the time that I had the unique privilege of sitting next to a gentleman who had been a pilot in WWI. Yes, the first World War, not the second. He was a very elderly gentleman. He spoke softly and he was very hard of hearing. Thus, the conversation was a bit one-sided, but this pilot's story and the pride he had for his his service, and for his country, was so inspirational that I didn't mind just listening to him speak as he relayed his incredible tale of service to me.

I was in my first year of college, at the time, and far from home as my family was an entire ocean away, in the United Kingdom (England). I was attending a small college, in the midwest, and happened to be travelling by Greyhound bus, to visit my grandmother and her family for the Thanksgiving holiday. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous traveling alone by bus for the first time. My pick-up stop was a sign post that read "Greyhound Bus" along a seemingly deserted stretch of roadside in the middle of a series of corn fields. When I boarded the bus, there weren't many empty seats left on the bus.  I glanced at the available seating options and decided to settle into the seat next to an elderly, well dressed gentleman. As the bus resumed its journey, this gentleman smiled warmly at me and asked me where I was headed.  Then he showed me his WWI-era military ID badge and a special pilot's award pin that he had been awarded.  He informed me that he used to wear this pin --no doubt proudly-- on his pilot's jacket. The photo ID badge was very faded, but a photographic image of a much younger version of the man then sitting next to me was still clearly visible. The jacket pin (brass wings) itself was also very worn in a few places, as if it had been handled fondly in the years since its awarding. The man then began to recount numerous tales of his adventures as a pilot during WWI.  He told me all about his unit and how they had flown reconnaissance missions to gain military info in Europe. He told me stories about having to bail out of planes that had been shot at and were too badly injured to make the return flight. Stories of numerous close calls and times he didn't think he'd ever make it back home again, but he always wound up smiling with a far-off look in his sparkling eyes and a slow, gentle shake of his head, as he repeated "But somehow, by the grace of the Big Guy (pointing up to the sky), I always made it back home."

There were some parts of the stories that I could not hear clearly, but I did not have the heart to interrupt his tale. Sometimes over the years when I have thought back on this chance meeting with this WWI pilot, I wish that I would have interrupted the kind, elderly gentleman relaying his fascinating tale so that I could have a clearer recollection of all of the detailed facts behind his story. But sitting here, as I write now, it occurs to me that God probably put me there on that day, in that very seat, next this gentleman to just listen ... To just listen and to be a witness to that wonderful man sitting next to me and to just let him be heard.

Perhaps this story is reminder to all of us of the importance of listening to others in our own lives?  With the latter in mind, why not take some time to sit down today with a veteran, in your own life, and just listen to their story of what being a veteran has meant to them. Listening can be such a wonderful way --such a wonderful gift- of showing your thanks for the service and sacrifice of these brave men and women.  God Bless our veterans, one and all, today, tomorrow and always!!

No comments: