Being in the presence of heroes awe-inspiring

Published 12:49 am Sunday, August 16, 2009

There are only a few times in my life when I’ve entered a room and been in awe of my surroundings. Like many folks, I’m not easily impressed, but Thursday night was different.

It’s not that the building I was in was anything visually spectacular, like how I imagine the Sistine Chapel or the pyramids of Egypt to be. But it was what was in the building, more specifically who was in the building, that I was in awe of.

The place was the American Legion Post 20 building, and I was in the presence of heroes. Anyone who truly loves this country, who continually marvels at the beauty and freedom we as Americans enjoy need look no further than our war veterans for the reason why we’re able to continue to enjoy them today.

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War veterans, and those who served in the military during peacetime, are often taken for granted. Go to any Veterans Day event across the country, any event where military veterans are honored and you’ll likely see sparse crowds. Most of those in attendance at these events are the veterans themselves and their families. You’ll likely see larger crowds at a fireworks display than you will at an event to honor veterans — a sad commentary on our appreciation for what they’ve done and are doing to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

Thursday night I had the good fortune to sit next to a real, live war hero. His name is Marion Edwards, but he said folks just call him “Pete.” When I asked him why they call him Pete, he laughingly said when he was a baby his momma was showing him off and said “Isn’t he Pete.” He told me she meant to say “sweet,” but the name stuck and he’s been called that ever since.

Pete, who turned 89 in July, served in World War II under “Old Blood and Guts” himself, Gen. George S. Patton. I asked him if he thought George C. Scott got it right when he portrayed Patton in the 1970 film about the controversial general’s life. He said yes he had, and that he’d often personally seen Patton at the front lines many times. “He’d like to come to the front to see what was going on,” Pete said.

As I listened to Pete describe his WWII experience, it was hard to imagine the grandfatherly looking gentleman with the wide friendly smile carrying a rifle, slogging through the snow and muck as he and his mates drove toward Berlin. But that he did, just as many others did in the room I was blessed to be sitting in Thursday.

On July 24, Rep. Deborah L. Halvorson, (D-Ill.), introduced House Resolution 679 asking all Americans to observe American Legion Day on Sept. 16. As of Aug. 1, the resolution had 41 co-sponsors, but none are from Alabama.

I urge you to contact your representative and ask them to co-sponsor Halvorson’s American Legion resolution. Their contact information can be found at It’s the least we can do to honor those that have given so much, to so many.