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Jefferson Weaver: Veterans are men and women of steel

By Jefferson Weaver

I know a fellow who has to carry a card with him everywhere he goes to prove he isn’t carrying a knife or shoplifting.

Much of one leg is screwed and plated together; he sets off metal detectors in courthouses, airports and even department stores. He doesn’t have a noticeable limp, and on a few occasions, has had to roll up a pants leg to show the long, livid scars that prove his Veterans

Administration card is real. He was wounded in Iraq, when his now-almost grown children were toddlers. He doesn’t talk about it, or make a big deal out of his service to freedom.

I grew up around veterans; some had visible scars or even missing limbs. Some had nothing but happy memories of their time in the service. Some had different injuries, wounds which never really healed but couldn’t be seen on the outside. One or two lived the remainder of their lives in a daze, like my friend Mr. Jimmy, who came home from World War I entirely changed, and lived 70-plus years in his own world that was alternately joyous and horribly sad. At least one of those I knew growing up hated the start of hunting season, even though he loved shooting quail and doves. The gunfire awakened the things that kept him awake at night. Many just shrugged and said yes when asked if they were in the military.

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, was Veterans Day. It has its roots in Armistice Day, when the War To End All Wars, the Great War, The World War, officially ended at 11 a.m. in 1918.

Humans being humans, wars didn’t cease just because politicians and optimists and those who were horrified at a “modern” war declared that all things would be peaceful from then on. Human nature doesn’t work that way; it never has, and it never will, until Christ rebuilds the earth in His image.

As evil as humans can be, there are good traits as well – and that is why we have veterans, men and women who signed what amounts to a blank check to their country. Some were in war, some in peacetime, some in peaceful jobs during wars, and others wondered how the ended up in a gunfight when the country was supposedly at peace.

These people are our men and women of steel.

The freedoms we enjoy, the ones that allow us to worship, work, think, argue, try to succeed, choose our leaders, defend our homes, and be (largely) free of government intrusion, those freedoms were protected by men like my friend with the metal in his leg.

I’m blessed to have a number of veterans in my close circle of friends, and more than a few in my family. Some were never shot at, some were shot at more times than they can remember. Each one served because it was the right thing to do. They knew that without men and women who would stand in the first line against the world, there would be no safety for their families or the future.

I never served, a fact that shames me somewhat. I have been a beneficiary of the service of others all my life, especially in my trade. No government agency has ever punished me for expressing myself in words. There are no jackboots dragging Baptists out the door of church on Sunday morning because we heard the “wrong” sermon. Like millions of other folks, I cast a ballot last week to make my choice for leaders and representatives in a government that is supposed to serve its people, as opposed to being told by a government how I will serve it.

We are free, because others were willing to put it all on the line to keep us that way, and to help others become free as well.

The men and women who have served our country in uniform are our foundation and frame. Our freedoms were won and defended through their sacrifice, and through the blood of their comrades who never came home. Sometimes it was just their presence that was a sufficient defense; sometimes that presence was required in a country a long way from home, that he or she might never have even heard of until a few days before leaving to go there.

They have stood in the mud of the ditches of France, in the jungles of Nicaragua and China and Vietnam and a hundred Pacific islands. They have ridden across the deserts of Mexico, North Africa, Iraq, and Kuwait. They’ve heard the lonely, distinctive ping of a clip ejecting from a Garand rifle on a dark hill in Korea, the shrill of a whistle and the command “Charge bayonets!” in what had been a French farmer’s field, and the whistle of mortars flying up from a hole in a seemingly endless wall of rocks in Afghanistan. They’ve waded past dead friends on beaches in Saipan and Normandy and Inchon, and jumped from the sides of helicopters in places with names no one knew how to pronounce. They’ve spent months at sea waiting to be called to action, and hours in the air making sure the sky was clear. They’ve stood in lines as their fellow Americans screamed vulgarities and threw frozen bottles and worse at them, and gone where no one else dared when the waters rose or the flames roared.

They have done all these things and so much more, with no guarantee of coming home to the families and homes they were defending and trying to keep free.

They did this because they are Americans.

They are our veterans.

They are our men and women of steel.

We honored them annually on Nov. 11, but we should honor them every day.

Without them, we are nothing.

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