Thank you

 

Written for the 2011 Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy Speech Contest,
topic “Is There Pride In Serving Our Military?”

 

Bombs exploded like fireworks that 1944 morning as nearly 7,000 ships reached the Normandy shore. Navy gunner Cliff Roberts prepared for action, knowing the lives of sixty Army men might depend on his accuracy. Suddenly an 88mm cannon hit another landing craft thirty yards away. A lightening second later, sixty men were buried in the ocean.

Officers screamed at their men to disembark, even as machine gun bullets whizzed by. Gunner Roberts saw soldiers from his boat dropping in the water. He trained his weapon on a German machine gun nest, firing two magazines and effectively destroying them. Noticing a wounded soldier hanging desperately to the ship’s ramp, Roberts scrambled down to rescue him. Dazed from his injury, the soldier mumbled, “Thanks, sailor.”

 

Roberts saved a soldier’s life that day and protected many others. He never told his family about his Normandy assignment until years later, after he became a great-grandfather to my cousin’s children. Although proud of his service, he didn’t consider himself a hero. The heroes were the 76 boys from his high school year book who never came home; the heroes were the 400,000 Americans who paid for freedom with their lives.

 

From the beaches of Normandy, to the jungles of Vietnam, to the deserts of Afghanistan—servicemen and women of the United States have fought in countless battles, enduring horrific fear and pain. They humbly sacrifice the best years of their lives for people they will never meet—often the same citizens who slander them back home. Why? Some, like my grandpa, were drafted. Others choose a paycheck from Uncle Sam. Whatever the reason, every soldier must be willing to die for family and freedom. Whether sweating in boot camp or dodging bullets on the battlefield, these soldiers exemplify the phrase “greater love has no one than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.”

 

Most veterans never receive a medal for their bravery, much less a hero’s welcome home. Misinformed media and convincing propaganda downplay the sacrifice of our soldiers. To counter this bias, we as American citizens should take the opportunity to publish the untold stories of heroism. By asking an uncle to tell stories of his days in Korea, or conversing with an Iraqi War veteran at a community event, we can discover hidden heroes at our fingertips. Added to the stories of thousands before them, their courageous actions inspire patriotism and fortify pride in our nation.

 

A family friend, Robert Taylor, grew up reading stories of these heroes, dreaming of the day when he too could serve his country. As boys, he and my brother dressed in camouflage, imitating American soldiers. The summer of Taylor’s eighteenth birthday, he proudly joined the United States Marine Corps. Weeks later, on a training run, the young, healthy Marine suddenly collapsed and died. Although he never saw combat, Taylor’s death was no less significant, because he gave his all for a cause he believed in. At his burial, the full military honors with rifle salute evoked a pride and respect for our military I will always remember.

 

Over 1,350,000 men and women have given, as Abraham Lincoln said, their “last full measure of devotion” so that “this nation might live.” Millions more have spent years in the military, sacrificing comfort and career so that future generations might be free. Soldiers are the warriors defending the “shining city upon a hill”, fighting tyranny to promote liberty and justice. Servicemen such as Cliff Roberts and Robert Taylor served courageously, and we have the opportunity to proudly proclaim their stories to the world.

 

Veterans and soldiers of the United States, thank you for protecting our safety while risking yours, defending our liberty with your lives. You can be proud of your service, because you are heroes. We the American people salute you with pride.

 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anna
    May 26, 2012 @ 18:43:36

    This is a beautiful post, Jessica! Thank you!!!! It meant so much to all of my family and me! Thank you so much! God bless you! Love, Anna My family sends their love as well 🙂

    Reply

  2. Gretchen
    May 26, 2012 @ 22:30:36

    And I cried…as I always do when I remember the day I came home to the news about Robert…the day of his funeral…Thanks for this beautiful tribute to our servicemen and women, sis.And thanks to the families of those who sacrificed everything for us.

    Reply

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