Thank you for your service

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This picture was taken on Pine Island at the VFW.

Sunday afternoon I had the privilege of covering the Veterans Musical Tribute in Jonesborough, Tenn. as an assignment for the Herald & Tribune.

The beautiful ceremony kicked off with a video sharing the history of the Star Spangled Banner in celebration of its 200th anniversary. Although I had watched it before, it was interesting to watch yet again.

The ceremony continued with additional videos and music sung by  the Appalachian Express Chorus. After the program concluded, I walked up to one of the singers in the choir and told him he had a beautiful voice. He did a solo number during one of the songs. The appreciation in his eyes and his handshake still has me smiling a few days later.

This tribute was yet another reminder of what our veterans have done for this country, both young and old.

Jonesborough Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Marion Light who organized the annual veterans program started off the program by sharing the statement below with the crowd:

“It is a soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of press. It is the solider, not the poet who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the solider, not the educator who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is graced by a flag to give the protestor the freedom to abuse and burn the flag.”

Although I do not come from a strong military background, I have grown to know a very special veteran who spends countless hours helping other wounded veterans. I met this Marine in 2012 while I was covering an event for veterans on Father’s Day.

Dave has such a special place in my heart. I have nothing but respect for what he has done and what his visions are for the organization he founded, Wounded Warrior Anglers. It is such a beautiful thing to watch and hear his stories of how he is helping his fellow veterans get through some hard times as they struggle with injuries and PTSD. That help is provided in such a therapeutic way, fishing in the beautiful waters of Southwest Florida while creating an everlasting companionship.

Since that afternoon where we shared a picnic table at Olde Fish House talking, he has introduced me to countless other veterans who have left an everlasting imprint on my heart. I can never fathom what these service men and women went through while fighting for our freedom. With that said, it brings nothing but joy to my heart when I am given that opportunity to shake these veterans hands and tell them “thank you.”

I must revisit a memory that still more than a year later has the same effect on me that it did back in April 2013.

The moments I shared with Angel, who served in the Army for 26 ½ years, tugged at my heart. As we sat there, he shared a few stories of when he was deployed, which truly meant a lot to me.

Before I said goodbye, I thanked him. He instantly asked what did I do? I said you served our country and fought for our freedom. The emotion he shared at that moment will be a part of me forever. It still gives me goose bumps as I sit and write about it now. These men and women who join the service do not do it anticipating a thank you from us civilians, but rather because something called them to that job.

The honesty in Angel’s eyes touched me in a way I cannot explain. I told him just know that you are appreciated before I shook his hand once again.

The goosebumps resurfaced as I reread that passage.

So as I sat in the audience taking in the videos, the comments and the songs, my thoughts constantly wandered to Dave and how much being a part of the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers means to me.

Dave, thank you for your service. Thank you for fighting for our freedom. Most of all, thank you for caring enough to make a difference in the lives of so many veterans through your generosity, your vision and your countless hours of dedication to the organization I am proud to be a part of.

There were two videos that I have to share from the program.

One of the video’s was Ronald Regan’s Veterans Day Prayer, the clip is added below.

Although the entire prayer raised the hairs on my arms as I sat with the audience listening to the words spoken, these words below grabbed a hold of me.

“All we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did and memories are transmitted through words. We see these soldiers in our minds as old and wise. We see them something as the founding fathers gray with gray hair. But most of them were boys when they died and they gave up two lives. The one that they were living and the one they would have lived.”

The other video was called “Solider Deck of Cards.” Rather than writing an excerpt  of what was said, please watch the video until the very end.

I love when I am assigned an event that touches me  . . . I loved how the program ended . . . members of each branch of service stood as the room filled with applause.

Happy Veterans Day.

Chilly and soggy, but gorgeous run

Yesterday Lucy and I were stuck at the house, without our run because of nonstop rain once again. This morning when we both woke, although it was in the 50s, the sun was shinning and there was barely a cloud in the sky.

I definitely wanted to make use of this rare sunshine . . . .

Lucy and I got in the car and headed to the Kingsport Greenbelt for my morning therapy, our outdoor getaway in nature. When we arrived in the parking lot there was only two cars, far less than I have ever seen. That should have been a sign of what was ahead of us, but we were there and I needed to run.

We were left with the option of only going to the left because the path was pretty wet and under water to the right of our entrance way off of the PetSmart parking lot.

Instead of hearing the crunch of leaves as we ran, the only sound was the rushing of water, the slosh of the leaves as we made contact with them and birds chirping.

There were a few areas where Lucy and I ran across small puddles of water. There were other areas where we had to cross deeper puddles that were the length of the path. Lucy was very hesitant at first, due to her not being a fan of the water, but as we kept on going she became a pro, often times leading the way.

With the wind, it was a rather cool run, which kept our pace at a rather decent speed.

On our way back, near the bridge at the start of the path, there was a tree in the middle of the path that wasn’t there when we begun. It was a rather large tree trunk. I sure hope it fell when no one was around. It just goes to show just how much it has rained the past couple of weeks, everything is so saturated.

We ran a total of 2.28 miles today. I wanted to increase our distance every day this week, but as we  neared our usual area the path was really flooded and I didn’t want to run in squishy shoes all the way back to our starting point.

Tomorrow, the goal is to go at least 2.5 miles, that is if there is no rain and the path is a little dryer.

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I love the serenity of the Greenbelt. My mind and soul is always refreshed once we are done with our run.

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I decided to look up some information about the path that Lucy and I have grown to love over the last few months.

When the Riverfront Park and The Boatyard was developed, the linear path became a reality in the 1970s. In 1989, a master plan was created for the path, which includes a trail that extends along the Reedy Creek and the Holston River, connecting the east and west side of Kingsport.

Now the path begins at The Exchange Place on the east end of Kingsport and ends on the west side along the Battle of Kingsport on the banks of the Holston River.

The length of the trail is 8-miles long. Looks like Lucy and I have some exploring to do, some increased distances to achieve.

This tidbit of information I think is pretty neat: the Greenbelt was featured in Southern Living, received recognition from the White House, as well as statewide recreation awards. No wonder it is an active path with all generations of every exercise.

Check out http://www.kingsportgreenbelt.com for more information.

After we returned back home, I had an interview with LaVerne about a bike ride she is putting together from Tucson to Phoenix, more than 85 miles long. As our conversation went on, I connected with this woman who began bike riding when she was 40 years old . . . . 12 years ago.

She told me it’s the “Freedom of cycling . . . It’s something about the quiteness and the freedom . . . You feel alive.” LaVerne said the connection with nature also draws her in while riding her bike.

I can completely relate. I feel rejuvanated when Lucy and I are done running. I know that sounds strange, but it’s so true. That connection with nature is also another big draw for me. As I run, I breathe in that fresh air, while hearing the sounds of nature. I start to feel part of nature as we are passing through on that wonderful path.

I am thankful I found a passion, a healthy passion at that.

Until next time. . .