Veteran’s Day is upon us, since we celebrate this holiday on November 11th each year. Once again, I find myself at a loss to express my gratitude to those who served or are serving in the military. This gratitude is not new for me, because I grew up in a home with a veteran.
My father is now in his eighties, but an old black and white photo of him as a young Army staff sergeant sits on an end table in his home reminiscent of his own service. It was his example that taught me this deep respect for the men and women of the military.
Twenty-year-old country singer, Scotty McCreery must have patriotic roots that run deep like mine. But honestly have you ever heard of a country artist who isn’t patriotic? Recently, I attended my first ever country concert featuring McCreery who was the Season 10 American Idol winner. Besides old Idol fans like me and my hubby, McCreery had a following of screaming girls in cowboy boots and rhinestone belts singing along to his hit songs at Troy’s Hobart Arena last month. Personally, the price of the ticket was worth just hearing the performer’s touching tune, “The Dash.”
An already consummate musician, McCreery sat down on a stool and mesmerized the crowd with his lyrics about the true story of a young soldier who was deployed to Afghanistan and never returned to see his wife give birth to his first child, a little boy.
Thankfully, my own nephew, an Army private recently returned safely from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. While he was there I was constantly praying for huge angels to be around him. Sadly, I’m sure that the family of the young soldier McCreery wrote about was praying for the same thing.
While interviewing Lima’s Scott Young, WTGN’s general manager, I found out that as a teenager growing up in Windham, Ohio, he, too, prayed daily for his older brother who was serving in Vietnam. Although his brother returned unharmed, “The little town I was from, we lost five boys in Vietnam,” remembered the well-known radio personality. Young, who has been at WTGN Christian Radio for 35 years, will be featured in my Inspirations column in December’s Our Generation’s magazine.
Like Scott Young’s brother who works in the same Windham area factory where their late father once did, there are countless veterans all around us. Those who served in combat action, and others who sacrificed to protect our freedom during calmer times. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau almost 22 million Americans have been in the military. Of this number, 1.6 million are female veterans.
Sometimes, it’s not easy to tell who is a veteran. It can be the clerk at the gas station, the emergency room nurse, or a farmer in the field who once served our country. There are signs though, like a license plate holder, bumper sticker, or ball cap that boasts allegiance to a specific military branch. My father is one of those U.S. Army ball-cap guys.
That’s why I wondered if the young man who I saw this fall at a community festival was a war veteran. He was wearing a military cap, except it was a camouflage hat without any lettering, so I wasn’t sure if he was military or just someone who liked camouflage.
The approximately twenty-something family man was tall and stood almost at attention in his khaki t-shirt. There was one unusual thing; he was minus an arm. He caught me staring at his missing appendage, and for just a moment he appeared embarrassed. I could tell he wasn’t the kind of individual who cared for sympathy, but it wasn’t sympathy I was feeling. Rather, I was obsessively wondering how he had lost that limb. Of course, he could have been in a factory or farming accident, but still I felt this visceral guilt in realizing that he might have lost it defending my freedom.
Since politeness, prevented me from asking, I didn’t get a chance to thank him, if he had been in combat. But how would you thank someone for giving up their arm in your defense anyway? That’s why I wrote this column to possibly express my gratitude to him and every courageous man and woman who have served or are serving to make sure our nation remains the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Thank you and Happy Veteran’s Day!
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in The Lima News, Sidney Daily News, and Troy Daily News.