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Take the opportunity to honor all who served

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As I sit here, I think about all the honors and privileges I have been given over the years of my life – getting to do things I dreamed of as a young boy.

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How many people ever get to, actually, live out their dreams?

Well, I can say that I did. I started playing in the dirt as soon as I could crawl. When I was a little boy, my mother would take me to Fourth Street to see the soldiers getting on the buses to go serve their country.

I was too young at the time to understand just what was happening, but I knew I wanted to be one of these Army guys. I got to do just that for many years, and I’ve also moved a lot of dirt in my lifetime.

Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to thank all the men and women who served this great country we are so privileged to live in.

So, what’s my childhood and my life got to do with all of this? The same as so many men and women who have answered the call and signed that “blank check” to this great nation.

For those of us who got that second chance in life, we should make every day count; for some it takes years to learn this. Some never do.

But stop just for a few minutes and think of all of those who never got that second chance in life. Remember the families who never got to see their sons or daughters again – except in a flag-draped casket. Remember the families who never even got that much, because their sons or daughters were buried in far-away countries, fighting for someone else’s freedom.

I have been given the honor so many times to speak about the military. It is something so dear to my heart. I love speaking to students at the schools on Veterans Day. To many of them, it’s just an hour out of class listening to someone in a uniform they know nothing about.

But that’s not their fault. It is the responsibility of those of us old enough to remember the draft and the Vietnam War to tell them about it.

Why? First of all, just let me say we all have our right to freedom of speech. Was it wrong to do away with the draft? Some say yes, some say no. As I look back now, and for what little that I know, it was probable the right thing to do at that time in our history.

The Vietnam War was different than any war the United States had ever fought in the past and different for any other war fought so far. Was it tougher than other wars? No. But some may disagree.

The Vietnam War changed the way the U.S. military fights and thinks. It also changed the United States of America, and, in my opinion, the country has never recovered.

Stop and think what would have happened on D-Day in World War II if we had let the politicians and the media control the landings in Normandy?

That’s what lost the Vietnam War, the politicians and the media. Not one man or woman who fought in that war ever lost a battle.

The night before that historic landing in Normandy, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter taking full responsibility should the landing have failed.

In 1991, Gen. “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf waited until he was ready to take on the fourth-largest army there was and brought Operation Desert Storm to a very swift end.

On Veterans Day, when you see someone who served this great nation, thank them and shake their hand for their service to this nation. And take a moment to remember the ones who we can never thank in person, because they gave their all.

From the trenches of WWI; to the beachheads that were fought in WWII from Pearl Harbor to Japan, and the battlegrounds all over Europe; to the frozen battlefields of Korea; and into the blind jungles of Vietnam – and, of course, to all our great men and women who have been fighting in the Middle East for the past two decades. I’m especially very proud of them because they are all volunteers; they are there because they believe in what they’re doing.

On this day, I remember all the great people I’ve met and served; I think of all of those whose families have had to live with the question: “What if they’d made it?” Only God knows that answer on this day.

But what makes America so great is the men and women who have served and will serve in the future.

Military service is not for everyone, and that’s how it should be. Those who serve must be willing to continue to go to lands far away to fight and possibly to die. Is that what we want as a nation? No. But to exist as a free nation, you take the fight to your enemy’s backyard.

Anyone who has seen what war does to the people and their homelands will tell you this is true, if we want to continue life in America as we know it today.

Take the time to say thank you to the ones who served with a phone call, e-mail or text message. That’s as good as any medal and is something that person will always remember.

It once was said that Pearl Harbor couldn’t be attacked.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the terrorists trained within our borders used our own system against us.

History repeats itself; we can’t take what we love most – our freedom – for granted. So many have paid for all the things that make America the greatest place there is to live and the greatest place to raise a family – they are the men and women of the armed forces of the United States of America.

God bless our men and women serving all over the world and protecting us as we enjoy our freedom.