Let us give thanks for all the things we take for granted.
Like life. Like freedom. Like raising our children. Like assuming the future. Like not speaking German, or Russian — or whatever language the tyrant might impose.
So along comes another Veteran’s Day, challenging us to stop taking such essential things for granted — at least for the day.
And to give thanks to the millions of men and women who have run great risks — and sometimes paid a terrible price — so that all the rest of the year we can so carelessly take those guarantees for granted.
The dwindling honor guard of Veterans of World War II are perhaps the last generation who fully understood what can happen when a nation’s defense weakens and chaos, terror and tyranny overwhelm the border guards. The veterans of that unimaginable conflict held back the holocaust — nearly too late.
In the half century since, the millions of Americans who have served in the military have kept the watch towers lit.
We offer our humble thanks to each of them now, a bit shamefaced that we don’t do more to express our love and appreciation all the rest of the year.
But how can you adequately thank soldiers like Jared Monti, a Medal of Honor recipient in Afghanistan.
The staff sergeant was leading his combat team of the 71st Cavalry’s 10th Mountain Division in combat in Nuristan Province in 2006 on an intelligence-gathering mission. When his 16-man patrol came under fierce attack by 50 enemy fighters, Monti set up a defensive position and then personally drove off a flanking attack with his rifle and grenades. Seeing one of his men wounded and laying in the open, Monti made two attempts under heavy fire to reach the wounded soldier. On the third attempt, he ran across open ground, receiving a mortal wound. The Afghan conflict produced a second Medal of Honor recipient as well.
Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy in 2005 led his four-man team on a mission deep in enemy territory to a militia leader. The team came under heavy fire by 40 Taliban fighters. With all four team members wounded and the radio man down, Lt. Murphy crawled into an exposed position to get a radio signal. He maintained his position and called in the support that saved the rest of his team, although he was mortally wounded as a result.
So, it seems hardly adequate that we look up from our concerns on this one day set aside to mumble our thanks, our admiration, our gratitude.
Not just for the decorated heroes and the silent dead, but to each of you who have stood your time along the watchtowers and come back to us now, so often humble and silent about your service. You ran the risks of heroes and touched the silence of death and we are grateful that you came back home safely to us.
We live ever in your debt.
Tomorrow is your day. We hope we see you so we can thank you in person, at one of the ceremonies hosted across Rim Country on Wednesday.
We know that Monti and Murphy and so many others can never hear us say it, but we hope that you do. Thank you. Thank you. God bless you.