This Veterans Day, 2017, I have found myself stuck on Facebook, sharing best wishes with fellow vets and catching up with old friends, while responding to friends’ wishes for a happy holiday.
But, as usual, my thoughts turn to times shared with old friends made while wearing a suit of blue, olive drab fatigues and later the battle dress uniform of the eighties and nineties. I had the honor and privilege of serving a country I still dearly love for twenty years as a proud member of the United States Air Force.
It has been said that a veteran takes an oath of enlistment that never expires, one that lasts a life time. As I have enjoyed my retirement I’ve come to believe that that is a true statement. Today, while enjoying the aches, pains and gray hair of older age, I still feel as committed to upholding that oath as I did in the Knoxville MEPS back on Sept. 14, 1978.
Perhaps it is because of the shape of our country today. But, that is fodder for another column. Today is a day to enjoy our freedoms because of brave men and women who answered our country’s call.
Every enlisted service member must raise his or her right hand swear the following oath of allegiance to the United States of America prior to entering active duty:
“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
It is done solemnly and with great commitment. It is the starting point for every soldier, sailor, airman and marine. Those words, when said, are what turn an individual, a civilian, into a member of the greatest team on earth – the United States military. It is the foundation of what service is all about.
At the very root it is what drives the thank you given to veterans on this day. It is the oath that becomes a check for a life written to our nation. A promise made that if called upon, that check could be cashed.
And, unfortunately, on many occasions it has. Rest in peace, my dear, departed comrades.
This Veterans Day has been significant for me in several ways. The first of which is sharing memories with several old and dear friends from my time in service that had been lost to me until we were recently reacquainted thanks to Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation.
It was a genuine pleasure to see a friend request today from a guy I went through basic training with back in 1978, John “Father” Flanagan. Now retired and living in Arizona. The “Father” was hung on John due to his being the Catholic Chapel Guide for our flight. Likewise, I was given the moniker of “Pastor” Norwood as I was his counterpart for the Protestants in our flight. We were responsible for marching chapel attendees to and from services.
I’m not so sure we had those positions due to our zeal to get to chapel as it was to get out of flight details and the opportunity to mingle with the female airmen. At any rate, it was an unexpected treat to reconnect with “Father.”
The second reason was the pleasure of sharing the holiday long distance with my first permanent party roommate, Darce Mebus, now a resident of Houston, Texas. Darce, whom I refer to as “Rooms,” and I were the best of friends, working in the same computer operations division, playing squadron sports together and creating prolific pranks together.
We once moved all the day room furniture to the roof of our building and recreated the setting there, complete with television and pool table. Seeing that our dorm building was next door to Military Airlift Command headquarters, it created quite a stir.
Lastly, this Veterans Day was made special due to the efforts of the faculty and students of Silverdale Baptist Academy. For the past several years I have attended their celebration and salute to military veterans and have always departed with a feeling of thankfulness and peace.
Headmaster Becky Hansard leads an awesome group of teachers who do a wonderful job of instilling not only a first class Christian-based education in their charges, but also a very deep sense of what it means to be a patriotic citizen with values that every American should adhere to. It’s no wonder that the academy is a leader academically, athletically and morally.
This year’s program was again first rate with music, speeches and presentations by the students. One young man’s essay on the topic “Because of the Brave” touched my heart in a most special way. It was the best thank you I had ever been given as a veteran.
Taylor Cannon is an eighth grader at the school and wrote the following award winning essay:
“Because of the Brave”
By Taylor Cannon
America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Elmer Davis once said, “This nation
will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.’ ’ What does bravery
mean to you? To me, bravery means having the courage to face and defeat only the most difficult
situations of danger and fear. Our nation is protected by the bravest men and women in the world
who were not afraid to face their fears a make the ultimate sacrifice. Because of the brave we
have freedoms many will never experience, but unfortunately many have forgotten that bravery
and are disrespecting our country and the brave men and women who fought for our freedoms.
Because of the brave I get to live in the land of the free where I can worship as I choose,
go to school, and play sports. The sacrifices these brave men and women make and have made
for our country is not to be taken lightly. They leave their families, friends, and comforts behind
when they choose to serve our country. The wars they fought (fight) often leave people scarred,
injured, or in worst case dead. This is ultimate bravery because they know what they are signing
up for and they know what could happen but they choose to defend their country. The bravery of
these men and women should always be respected and remembered.
Because of the brave we should always pay special tribute and respect to those who
sacrificed for our freedom. Unfortunately, this is not happening in present day America. People
today are disrespecting the flag and kneeling when the national anthem is played. This is total
and complete disrespect to the whole country, and especially the brave men and women who put
their lives on the line to protect it. These people should take into account that without the bravery
of those who sacrificed they would not have the blessing of playing sports as a livelihood. They
will never know what it is like because war is very brutal, and you have to be very brave to take
it on day after day. It is time for a wake-up call America! Because oí the brave we are free and
blessed, now let’s act like it!
America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. It’s my home and I am blessed
because of the brave. I will always be forever grateful for each man and woman who put their
life on the line for my freedom. For all of the veterans and men and women in active duty, thank
you for your service and for your bravery. Thank you for all that you do and have done for our
country. It’s because of the brave!
From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Taylor.
(Dennis Norwood is a writer and photographer for The Chattanoogan.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @DennisENorwood)