American values shaped by veterans

Published 1:41 am Saturday, November 13, 2010

This week we celebrated what I consider to be one of the most important and meaningful days of the year – Veterans Day. Certainly there are other important days of the year that we revere, but, for me, Veterans Day has special meaning.

Maybe it’s because I was born on an Air Force base, or that my father served 20 years in the military. Or maybe it’s because I’ve looked into the eyes of those who have survived battle, sacrificed a limb or still carry internal scars with them in service to their country.

What I’ve come to understand by interacting with military servicemen and women is it takes a special person to wear the uniform, to know when you enlist there is a chance you will die in service to your country, in some foreign land, protecting the rights and freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

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Through my role serving communities through their newspapers, I’ve had the distinct opportunity to interact and interview many of these special people. They wear the face of an ordinary person, but most have lived extraordinary lives.

The more fascinating veterans I’ve interviewed generally tend to be WWII vets. Sadly, their numbers are dwindling. According to a May, 2010 report from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs there are a little more than two million veterans of World War II still alive today and they’re dying at a rate of 850 each day. As a matter of fact, further studies show by 2025 there will be less than 60,000 alive.

You may think my stating these estimates are morbid, but the reality is we have learned much from the experiences these brave men and women have shared, and have yet to share. Soon that resource, that wealth of knowledge gained through surviving a horrible war or fulfilling the mission of true patriotism will be gone, and we will be much poorer because of it.

I’m convinced our country dies a little each time one of these brave Americans dies. Our country has changed much since these men and women sacrificed so much for all of us. Much of the change has been good, but much has been bad – mostly because I believe we’ve lost perspective on the things that are truly important – God, family values, patriotism and honor.

I hope and pray we can restore those values that so many gave so much to protect.