I can remember all their faces

Published 8:09 am Tuesday, November 13, 2012

While my patriotism and love of country runs strong, I am not a military veteran. My time came along just as the Vietnam War was ending. The draft ended and the country had no taste for another war in the near future.

While I have been asked to speak at several Veterans Day gatherings over the years, I always disclose my non-veteran status before I agree to speak. However, the people asking me have always quickly responded that it doesn’t matter.

As time has gone along, I agree that you don’t have to be a veteran to honor veterans. In fact, perhaps it is those of us that never had to serve that have the most to be thankful for in recognizing those that did.

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There was a large crowd that turned out in Seminole County on a breezy, beautiful morning this past Monday to honor our local veterans. A local youth choir sang beautifully. There was the singing of the National Anthem, the raising of the Flag, the Pledge of Allegiance and more.

There was the reading of the names of the 33 people who have died in service to their country from Seminole County. That was followed by the lone trumpet playing “Taps,” a moment sure to pull at the heartstrings of even the toughest man there.

My speech was well received and I had many compliments from those in the crowd. But there is one moment that will forever remain with me as part of this particular Veterans Day.

An elderly man that I have known for many years was sitting beside me. Some days, his memory might not be quite at its best, but he jokes about it and tells me what I have to look forward to as the years begin to pass for me.

During the reading of the names of those that paid the ultimate sacrifice, he leaned over to me and whispered, “I can’t remember the names of all those that were killed (during his service), but I can see all of their faces.” Then he shook his head at the memory of the wasted lives that came with his war.

That is why I will continue to honor veterans of every branch and every war. I continue to benefit from the sacrifices they made on behalf of me and my family. I can’t begin to know what it cost them, even decades later.

On behalf of a grateful citizen, I can only say to veterans everywhere: “Thank you.”