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.