Today, we celebrate “Veterans Day” in America. I’m so thankful that our nation still affirms and highlights our Veterans on this day every year. Amazingly, we haven’t changed the actual day of remembrance to accommodate a three-day weekend, and we don’t merely associate Veterans Day with the reason to have a barbeque or mattress sale or to begin a season like we do with Memorial Day.
We stop and say “thank you” to those heroes who selflessly served or are still serving our nation, as well we should.
Tremendous gratitude is also owed to the families of those who served or are currently serving, because they, too, have borne such incredible sacrifice. Multi-month deployments put tremendous strain on the spouse, children and parents of service members. Some of their loved ones never return home. And some come home missing body parts or are emotionally scarred from the trauma of combat. Some lose their lives doing dangerous training missions in the US as they prepare for combat. All are America’s finest, sacrificing for us. And American’s finest includes their families.
My blood probably does runs red, white and blue. My remarkable father spent his life serving our military, first as a Naval officer assigned to the U. S. Naval Academy before World War II. He continued to serve there on active duty until the late 1940’s, at which time he became a civilian professor but continued to serve in the Naval Reserves for forty years.
Before my dad’s death at the age of 93, I asked him what the hardest decision was that he ever made. His answer surprised me. When he left active duty in the Navy, his pay was cut in half to stay at the Naval Academy as a civilian instructor. As a chemical engineer, he had numerous job opportunities with significant earnings potential in the private sector. But my dad was a patriot, and he was devoted to the (then) men and mission of the Naval Academy. For my father, service to our country was more important than financial gain. While he was never in combat, he poured his life into the development of those who would be. And my dad spent his entire professional life serving there, first as a professor and later as a dean. He loved the Academy so much that he even asked the Secretary of the Navy if his remains could be placed in the Columbarium on the Naval Academy grounds after his death, even though he wasn’t a Naval Academy graduate. The answer was an immediate “yes.”
Recently, my daughter and I had the opportunity to visit Annapolis and to walk around the Naval Academy. I was able to tell her a few stories about her grandfather’s many contributions there. And we both have immense gratitude for his legacy of service, humility, excellence and godly leadership.
As Americans, it is so easy to take our blessings and freedoms for granted. Much of the comfortable life that we enjoy is due to the sacrifice of our military and of their families. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each of us did something on an ongoing basis to show our gratitude? Contribute to Folds of Honor, Wounded Warrior Foundation, the Navy Seal Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation or Operation Gratitude to name a few. Pray for those who are currently serving and for their families. Thank those in uniform for their service. Pay for their meal. Call Veteran's Affairs and ask for ways to volunteer. The needs are tremendous and we can all find tangible ways to express our gratitude.
As a grateful American and a woman who was raised knowing the words of the Navy Hymn, "Navy Blue and Gold" and "Anchors Aweigh," I have one more very important thing to say: