Sunday’s Spiritual Spin: The Fallen

Gold Star Service Banner
Gold Star Service Banner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

sunday’s Spiritual Spin

I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in arms who have fallen in the line of duty. Memorial Day is the day on which we honor those who gave their lives in defense of our country. It is no surprise that nearly all Americans recognize this honor, regardless of their viewpoints on religion, politics, etc. It is because we understand that freedom is never free, that “the tree of liberty is watered by the blood of patriots.”

To those who survive, my heartfelt thanks. Word cannot express my gratitude nor comfort your sorrow. I therefore ask the Lord Who is Comfort to do it for me.



While those of us who served, or are currently serving, appreciate the gratitude expressed to us on Memorial Day, we (if I may be so bold as to speak for everyone else) would greatly prefer that gratitude be focused toward those who have joined the ranks of the rarest of honors: Families of the Gold Star.

Veterans are most appropriately thanked on Veteran’s Day. Those currently serving, on Armed Forces Day.

But you know what? It’s better do express the gratitude while we’re all still around to hear it, so while I do have a bit of a…particular view…in the matter, don’t let my hobby-horse get in the way.

Armed Forces Day, 2013

Armed Forces DayI am thankful for our  Armed Forces, the men and women who swore an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our rights.

President Harry S Truman led the effort to establish this holiday for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

A bit of nit picking on my part:

Armed Forces Day ( May 18) is to honor those currently serving. Veteran’s Day (Nov 11) is for honoring those who have servedMemorial Day honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

while I am truly grateful for those who acknowledge my service whenever they thank me, I have to admit a bit of…annoyance? that the purpose of these various holidays seems to be getting all mixed up.

This point is this: thank them while you have the chance:

The Active Duty folks you see in the airport today might be coming home in a flag draped coffin. Sad, but all too true. We don’t know.

The Veteran you see, perhaps hobbling through Wal-Mart, might not wake up tomorrow morning–WWII and Korea (for example) were a long time ago.

On Memorial Day, it’s too late to thank the service member for their service. So be sure to look for their survivors: family, friends, comrades in arms–and thank them for their sacrifice.

Hippo Birdie, Zack!



I am thankful for Zack Newton, who celebrates another year around the Sun. He is a fellow Eagle Scout, a (former) Brother-in-Arms recently turned Fellow Veteran (USMC), and one of “my boys”–former students.

May the Lord open your eyes to the overwhelming abundance of Grace and Blessing with which He showers you! And thanks for being such a blessing to me!

Appreciating Appreciation

I am thankful for the appreciation I was shown at work today as a veteran.

I wore a “Vet Vest” that I made from an old BDU shirt (tore the sleeves off) and pinned/sewed the memorabilia of my military experience on it. I initially did the “wear your medals with pride”: thing at the request of the Secretary of the VA several years ago, following the practice of veterans Down Under who wear theirs on Anzac Day, primarily so that a grateful populace would be able to express their gratitude. Cool.

I also should admit that there was a bit of pride involved as well; I’m no war hero by any stretch of the imagination, but I served honorably, faithfully and with some distinction: looking over my “I Love Me Wall” material, I found that I tended to receive a citation for dedication/hard work/yada, yada, yada, about every 3-4 months and a commendation/medal about every 18 months over a nearly 19 year time span. Not bad for a logistics computer programmer during a time frame with no armed conflict to speak of. I enlisted in 1980 and ETS’d (got out) just prior to the 10 day Gulf War in 1990.

The Secretary recommended that we wear our medals/ribbons on “Patriotic holidays”: Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day.

Thus I have done. Initially, as noted above, for the benefit of those we served, that they might find tangible targets for their thankfulness. Then a bit more for the pride of accomplishment. But for the last couple of years or so, it’s really been for just me. A remembrance of some good times with some good people, lots of hard work and some satisfaction that what little bit role I played had some minor significance in the grand scheme of things. As a Cold War Era vet, I frequently find that  because I did not have the “luck” to be in combat, my service doesn’t seem to count as much. And that is rant for another time and place.

So I am appreciative of the appreciation expressed to me by college students that weren’t even born when I mustered out of the service.

Actually, the most frequently asked question I got today wasn’t about my ribbons or marksmanship medals or unit crests or any of that. It was: “You’re really a veteran?” Or closely related: “You really served?” And the questions basically came in two flavors. One: curiosity and…awe? shock?…that veterans are real creatures and not some history class/book story/fairy tale. Two: Surprise that *I* was a vet; something they never would have guessed about me. I’ve been thinking about it most of the day and I realized that the curiosity/astonishment was most likely due to the fact that most of these kids have never known any veterans. A few are “military brat”s, with parents who served, but most of them aren’t in that category. Their parents didn’t serve, their grandparents didn’t serve, and most of their friends are in college–the ones that decided to serve are still in the service and aren’t veterans yet, and even so, probably have not been home at the same time for these college kids to reconnect. Their paths diverged in Frost’s Wood and the service members are on the road less traveled by.

Being wired as a teacher, I had a grand ol’ time telling stories about what i did and where I was stationed and so on, some students there hanging around for 30-60-90 minutes listening with rapt attention and others very patently frustrated that I wasn’t focused on helping them so they could move on to their study sessions this close to midterms prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. And some equally obviously wanting to stay and frustrated that they felt compelled to go study.

And I am very thankful and flattered that there were some of the kids that were genuinely interested in an old fart like me. I am thankful that they seemed to be blessed by the stories or something…

But I didn’t do it for them. Not the Vet Vest. Not the stories. I did it for me. So I can remember. Not just remember the good times and great people with whom I served, like I mentioned above, but remember who I was. The road less traveled that I took, The road that played a large role in shaping  who I am today. While I am far from perfect: God knows! (And frankly so does everyone who knows me, or even simply follows my FB posts or catches the posts here…), I like who I am. Are there things I’d like to change? At the risk of sound rude: duh! That’s what this blog is all about, making some major, permanent changes.

Today was a great day. To all of those who expressed their appreciation for my service or wished me a Happy Veteran’s Day, my heart felt thanks! And a special thank you to the young man who sought me out to chat and say thanks (I was off to the side of the room eating dinner–he could have easily walked by…)

I’ve never been moved to post twice on the same day. I am thankful for that too.

There are rare days I feel completely useless and a waste of space and air.

Today was not one of them.