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The Creators and Protectors of Freedom

“This Flag is presented on behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful Nation as an expression of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your husband. Thank you and God bless.”

These were the words spoken by Commander Abe Pittenger, American Legion Post 35, as he presented the folded American Flag to my Great Aunt Mildred in honor of my Great Uncle John, a World War II Veteran.

To say these words were moving would be an understatement. Commander Pittenger fought back the tears as did I. My Aunt Mildred beamed with pride and honor, tightly gripping the stars and stripes as they were presented to her. World War II and John’s service were a lifetime ago, but at this moment nothing was closer to her heart and gave her more solace.

John was very quiet about his service to his Country, I never knew the true details until after his leaving us, Aunt Mildred then reflected to me how proud and honored she was by Uncle John’s Naval service.

As Taps played ending his memorial service I choked back tears, I cannot begin to tell you how moved I was as a proud God fearing American.

This ceremony goes on almost each and every day right here in Lycoming County and across our Nation in honor of brave men and women that put everything on the line to provide and ensure our freedom.

Sometimes it’s Uncle John who lived into his 90s and returned from battle to enjoy the fruits of his labor and a long life. Sometimes it is a young Marine, still with their whole life in front of them, protecting us here at home while serving somewhere in Hell’s sand trap.

Then there is the soldier who makes it home but has seen too much, done too much or been exposed to God knows what. This person who left his loved ones for the service and love of Country makes it home in physical being only, never returning to being the same person they once were.

And finally there are our wounded warriors. They come home, life changed forever by the reality of war. Hopefully they overcome their personal traumatic injury and are a story about surviving adversity; unfortunately this does not always happen.

Since the birth of our Nation, the United States Armed Forces have been in action 80 percent of the time. On this Veterans Day let’s salute all those who have served our Country in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Reach out to the special people, buy them a coffee, take them to lunch, extend your hand and say thank you for your service to America. Say a prayer and thank God for these special people and for all those currently serving our Country.

Next, let’s reach out to the young people and educate them on what Veterans Day is about. Explain to your children that without the strongest military in the world and the finest Servicemen and Women all the freedoms we enjoy as Americans would not be possible.

Last but not least, in a kind way, speak with someone who may always have their face buried in that cell phone. Remind them that it is Veterans Day and if they would not mind, how about reaching out to a family member or friend that is a Veteran via text, Facebook or by making a phone call. A simple message of thank you is all that is needed. If each of us speaks with one person think how powerful that could be in honoring America’s true heroes.

I would also, on this Veterans Day, like to share a story with you about a trip a couple of years back to Arlington National Cemetery. It was Mother’s Day and Michelle wanted to visit Washington DC. On her to-see list were all the normal stops, the last one before we headed to the Nationals game was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And yes, the boys and I took Michelle to a Washington Nationals game on Mother’s Day. What would you expect?

The ceremony was very proper and patriotic. It made you proud to be an American. This along with the grave markers and history of Arlington make it a must see for all Americans. It is truly a beautiful place of honor and remembrance of the fallen.

Afterward the boys hurried off with Michelle following them. I stopped to listen to one of the guards who just came off duty and was addressing a group of folks and answering questions. This soon ended and the crowd dispersed so I walked over to him and thanked him. “You are welcome, Sir,” he responded. I then asked him how do you feel during the “changing of the guard” and being here at Arlington? I could tell he had not been asked this question before. As we were walking toward the exit of the cemetery he stopped, looked me square in the eye and said, “It is my honor to serve God and the United States of America. We need to remember all who have fallen each and every day. My brother is laid to rest here.”

I was at a loss for words. I then extended my hand and said, “I’m very sorry for your loss, God bless you sir.” He firmly shook my hand and said, “It goes with the job, Sir.”

From all of us at Webb Weekly a Veterans Day salute and heartfelt thank you.

God Bless America

Jim Webb

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