Sunday, November 13, 2016

Honoring Veterans and Encouraging Those Serving Today

     Remembering those who have served our country is not just "a tradition", it is important for us as a nation.  It reminds us, and more importantly it challenges us to also bring dedication and service to whatever we do today.

     My Dad did not talk in great detail about what he did during his service during WWII.  But his honoring of those who served, his taking us to the Memorial Day parades, his marching in them with the other veterans, all instilled in me as a child a respect for our country -- that our country is worth sacrificing for.  My Dad did share some stories about his time in the service.  Some were funny and made me laugh. Some I really didn't understand until I got older.  And some challenged me about "what type of person should I become?" -- the stories help mold my character.
     At my Dad's funeral I shared some of the things he said that I remember as a child which challenged me and help direct my character.  One was a story about his time in the service.  Dad signed up after the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.  He went off to basic training and during that time he got involved in the Army band at the base because they found out he was a talented baton twirler.  Back home in upstate New York he had won some honors in his high school for his talent.  Dad was offered the chance to stay in the states and become part of the Army band to help with the war efforts.  Dad's answer:  "I didn't join the Army to play in a band, I joined to defend my country."  Dad passed up an easy way to serve for one that he felt more directly helped achieve the goal of defending our country.  That example of not taking the easy way, of being willing to step up and do the more difficult/dangerous, of not being "political" but "practical" helped shape my attitude toward life and how I would do things.
     When we honor our veterans, when we listen to their stories, when we remember what they stepped up and did -- it will shape our lives if we only listen.  Yes times and challenges change, but the need for character and courage never ends.

An example of how creative children can be.
Kids have drawn pictures of flags, sunshine,
flowers, stick figure families, submarines,
airplanes, stick figure soldiers, rainbows.
Young children just scribble colors, and the
parent adds a "Thank you" note.

    As we have reenacted at Civil War events as the U.S. Christian Commission over the years, I have watched how "remembering history and sacrifice of soldiers long ago" has helped shape my children's character for the better.  Their exploration of history has given my kids a foundation to better appraise current events.  Add to that they have also grown up interacting with some of the veterans who are involved in reenacting.  One very influential veteran was Capt Keith Howell, a retired military man who led the unit we were with out east, the 66th OVI.  Not only did he teach the boys (and the unit) drill, but also helped them learn discipline and respect for following orders.  For us as a family reenacting (i.e. exploring history and getting to know veterans of our time) has been a good thing to develop love of country and willingness to serve in whatever my kids choose to do in life.  (For an illustration of how doing "living history" helped my children learn see the picture that my daughter drew at age 11 in the post of Nov.16, 2013 "Remember" Honoring Civil War Soldiers by Learning History.  When she handed me that picture, I still remember how proud of her I was, that she was developing a grasp of how the bravery and sacrifice of previous generations needs to be honored.)

     Recently I have started offering to the spectators who come by our USCC tent the option to take a moment and write a simple Thank You Encouragement note to be passed on to a modern soldier.  I explain that just as the USCC back during the Civil War did what they could to encourage the men serving back then, we should be encouraging the men and women serving our nation today.  To those willing to take me up on the offer I give a photocopy page of a Civil War patriotic letter to write on.  I also have colored pencils on hand so that younger children can write or draw a picture.  It is very heartwarming to see the creativity of young kids in "writing/drawing" a note to be passed on.  I am always encouraged when I can get families to do it together.  In some small way I hope these notes do reach out with encouragement to those serving and protecting our country today.  May God bless those who are serving in the armed forces today.

A young man takes me up on the offer to draw a picture
to be passed along to a soldier.  He took the challenge
very seriously drawing a picture.  His parent helped him
write out a note of thanks under the picture.
     I have offered to come to a church or group and make a presentation in "first person" as a USCC delegate from 1863 sharing the challenges and opportunities of helping the soldiers serving in that war.  My goal is to show from history how "little things" can encourage others.  The application of the "history lesson" is to challenge "us today" to get involved in passing on God's love to others in "little things".  As a practical example I would offer the opportunity for those in the group to write a simple letter to be passed along to service men & women today through Hugs for Soldiers.  Haven't had any one take me up on it yet.  Probably it sounds too strange.