Another Veterans Day has come and gone in the great State of Alabama. This holiday was originally known as Armistice Day. It celebrated the cessation of hostilities in WWI, which came to pass on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. It was made a federal holiday in 1938. Following the Korean War, it was made a day to honor all American veterans.
Pondering what to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving day; I thought about my brothers and sisters in arms still on the line around the world. They deserve the thanks of every man, woman, and child in Alabama and the nation. They continue to stand in the gap for both their fellow citizens and the principles of this country.
In the neighboring cities of Valley and Lanett, Alabama like cities across Alabama; local leaders and representatives of the American Legion gathered to honor them. They gathered to show respect for all of Alabama's sons and daughters, who have answered the call in war and peace for both home and hearth.
Among the heroes honored was Adamsville, AL native Henry E. "Red" Erwin (1921-2002). Staff Sgt. Erwin served as a radio operator on a B-29 during WWII. Erwin during a bombing run on Koriyuma, Japan in 1945 went above and beyond the call of duty. He placed his own health, safety, and welfare on the line for his brothers.
He jumped into action when a phosphorus bomb on board ignited posing a threat to his crew. Erwin without hesitation picked up the burning explosive , carried it to the cockpit, and threw it out the window. His act of gallantry left him seriously burned, but saved the lives of all on board. For this noble action, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.
WWI. WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and every conflict in between have been fought by Alabama's finest. These men and women voluntarily lived the state motto; "We Dare Defend Our Rights". Warriors who will close with and destroy any threat to the lives or well being of their neighbors. Those who will bear any burden, suffer any hardship, and stand in any Hell when needed.
Their blood, sweat, and tears have stained the battlefields that keep us free. They are bound not only by an oath, but by an age old brotherhood. They are living examples of Christ admonition that there is no greater love than to lay one's life down for another.
It was saddening to see so few come to recognize the sacrifice of those who gave so much. When Veterans Day comes around Alabama please take the time to attend. you can choose no greater company than these men and women. Show your children that real heroes aren't found within the pages of a comic book, on the silver screen, or in a sports arena. They live in our own hometowns.
Teach them what a veteran is and to give them respect. Read the the poignant words of Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC in his "What is a vet?".
What is a vet?
Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them. A pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badges or emblem. You can't tell just by looking.
What is a vet?
He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is out weighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.
She is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
He is the POW who went away one person and came back another or didn't come back at all.
He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each others backs.
He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
He is the three anonymous heroes in the Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being, a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say "Thank You." That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have awarded or were awarded.
Two little words mean a lot, "Thank You."
Indeed "Thank You" for serving not only your country but your fellow Alabamians. Salute for a job well done.