For some, it’s a calling. Others, well, it’s in the blood. In service to this great nation, millions of regular people of valor don the uniform and stand ready to defend this land. This duty is not for the faint of heart. This duty is for the patriot, the defender of freedom, the men and women who, without hesitation will lay down their lives for our lives.
Regular people of valor. They become reluctant heroes in the name of preserving America and their lives are forever changed in ways the rest of us will never understand.
It’s in Their Blood
Generations of families have answered the call to serve: When Tyranny became unbearable, there was the Revolution. When it seemed humanity was all but lost, the Civil War and then World War ensued for the freedom for all men. And when our nation has been attacked, they tell the world, “we’ve got this.”
Al Blakesley, Aviation Machinist Mate, 2nd Class, was a Naval aircrewman stationed in the Solomon Islands during WWII. And he was storyteller to his family and friends, who hung on every word, starry-eyed with pride. They’ll still say, “remember the one about,” and repeat word for word the accounts passed along from their father and grandfather. Like this one about late-night patrol, praying not to see or shoot a Japanese soldier:
“He heard a noise in the jungle and called for them halt and for the password. Nothing. They kept coming! He was afraid to shoot; he was a sailor, not so much an infantryman. The noise came closer, and he became more afraid! Finally, it was close enough to show as he waved his flashlight. It was a coconut crab.”
Al’s son, Gary, shared that story as his father is the inspiration behind a kid from the dry New Mexico desert enlisting in the Navy, in a relative time of peace.
It’s a Calling
It was one of America’s deadliest battles during the war in Afghanistan. At 5:58 on the morning of October 3rd, 2009, Combat Outpost Keating, in the vulnerable terrain in Afghanistan scant few miles from the Pakistani border, fell under attack. In the battle, 53 Americans stood their ground, beating back 400 members of the Taliban. One soldier, Timothy Dunlap of the 10th Mountain Division, along with Medal of Honor recipient SFC Jared Monti and SSG Patrick Lybert, took heavy fire. By his end of service, Dunlap was disabled from injuries sustained there. Dunlap’s brother is a Nuclear Tech on a Navy Submarine, and his two step-brothers are in the Army and Marines in active service.
It was Dunlap’s dad, Darryl, who shared the story of bravery and courage. Darryl served in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. He was there when the wall came down, and his recollection of events, the regimes of socialism and communism, are his reason for staying active now in politics as a veteran who has witnessed tyranny first-hand. But his words today are a true testament to why we as a nation value our freedoms.
“Veterans Day posts are happening, so let me say this. The ‘thank yous’ are wonderful, but let me be the one to say, to all the people of the United States: ‘Thank You, for allowing me to serve.’ It was one of the most gratifying and fulfilling experiences I have ever known. I’ve experienced things many could only dream about. I’ve lived through things that tried me as a man and as a warrior, forever changing me. I’ve had some of the best times of my life, and some of the worst, but they made me who I am. Charles Dickens said it best, ‘Every man dies, but not every man has truly lived.’”
The American soldier is a unique breed. Honor them. Thank them. Appreciate them. Spend a moment in silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month and praise God for the regular people of valor that keep us safe, free, and able to pursue our version of happiness.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.