Happy Veteran’s Day 2016

By miller727@icloud.com November 10, 2016 Uncategorized 3 Comments

The following is a reposting of my Veteran’s Day message from last year. With the recent, highly contentious election, it’s a good time to reflect on the values that make us all Americans. May God continue to bless this great nation. Happy Veteran’s Day!

This picture absolutely stirs my heart.

In 2011, amateur photographer Frank Glick was on his way to work early one morning when he drove through Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota. He spotted a bald eagle through the mist, perched on a gravestone, and snapped a few shots with his aging but ever-present Nikon camera.

Since Mr. Glick first posted this picture online, tens of millions of people have been moved by this hauntingly beautiful image of one of our nation’s treasured symbols standing guard over the men and women who served to protect her.

Over the past 200-plus years, millions of Americans have raised their right hand and taken a solemn oath to defend our nation “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The have donned a uniform and honorably served our nation as members of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, and Coast Guard. During peacetime and in war, our veterans have made incredible sacrifices to preserve our country’s security and way of life.

With this in mind, it is appropriate to take a day off from the seemingly unending skirmishes related to our nation’s current political issues—which serve to divide Americans—and instead, reflect on the meaning and importance of Veteran’s Day as a means to unite us.

To begin with, I want to express my gratitude to the millions of men and women who have served our great nation as members of the Armed Services. I am honored to be one of them, having served as an artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps from 1983 to 1993.

As I tell people every year, the Marine Corps did far more for me than I ever did for it.

Serving in the Corps transformed me from an immature, irresponsible 22-year-old boy to a confident, self-disciplined, and capable man. I honestly would not be the person I am today without experiencing the challenges, adversity, and daily lessons of leadership I learned as a Marine.

Like the Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I entered the Marines “dull” and ten years later came through much less so (there is always sharpening to do). I owe whatever success I have achieved to the many men who honed my character and leadership on a daily basis.

Being a Marine never leaves you, hence the expression, “Once a Marine, always a Marine!” The camaraderie and esprit-de-corps that are developed between and amongst Marines is difficult to explain. Suffice it to say, I will always be faithful to the Corps and will die a Marine in my heart.

On November 11th, Americans will take a few hours to gather together at parades, school assemblies, and other patriotic events to pay our respect to those men and women who have worn a uniform in the service of our nation’s military forces.  We have so much for which to be proud as Americans and this is in large part to the incredible sacrifices of our servicemen and women throughout our history. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to serve with such great people.

The day also brings out feelings of melancholy for me. I remember friends I didn’t know long enough–Wayne and Dusty and Bobby, among others. I think about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to serve our country during war: 116,516 in WWI, 405,399 in WWII, 36,516 in Korea, and 58,209 in Vietnam, and many more in conflicts around the world.

I remember the nearly 7,000 men and women to date (including 131 Oklahomans) who have been killed in the war on terror since 2002. This does not include the tens of thousands of veterans who suffer long-term effects from their exposure to the horrors of war, to include severe burns, shrapnel wounds, brain injuries, nerve damage, paralysis, loss of sight and hearing, post-traumatic stress disorder, amputations and other deep emotional and psychological scars. Sadly, these veterans are reminded of their sacrifice on a daily basis.

And, tragically, we also regret the 22 veterans on average who make the fateful decision to take their own lives each day in America.

My heart also aches for the many families who will forever mourn the loss of a loved one in service to our country.

But, ultimately, today is a day to celebrate those who are currently serving or those who have served and come home, for the millions of men and women across America who have hung up their uniforms and are now woven into the fabric of our society. Folks who now serve their communities in a wide range of professions; as doctors, pastors, commercial pilots, police officers, firefighters, data processors, construction workers, teachers, and, yes, even as school administrators and part-time bloggers.

In particular, today is a day we should keep in our hearts and prayers the many soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen who keep us safe today. They are stationed in bases and outposts throughout the United States and around the world. We especially pray for those in harm’s way today. May God keep them safe until the day they are able to finally return to those they love and maybe be in a heartwarming video like this one (grab a tissue first).

Twenty-six years later, I can still recall vividly the smell of my then three-year-old daughter’s hair and the joy in my son’s eyes when I hugged them after my return from the Persian Gulf War. It is one of the most poignant and special memories of my life.

In closing, I want to thank all of our veterans not only for their service to our country but also for reminding us why America is and always will be the greatest country on Earth.

May God bless our veterans and our United States of America.

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