Did you have a chance to watch the Super Bowl this year?  That Super Bowl set a record for the most watched television show in American history.  The Nielsen Company said an estimated 111.3 million people watched the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots that Sunday night.  It was a great game, but I was struck by something other than the game that night.  Several times the network switched coverage to the troops watching the game at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.  Every time that happened the crowd would erupt in thunderous applause.

Sadly, there are a miniscule few in Washington and around the country who have a disdain for the American military.  They don’t share my convictions though, nor do they speak for me.  They’re like a mouse with a notion of a lion’s roar.

A few weeks back I was at work and a trucker got out of his rig and walked up to me.  I was a little standoffish at first, but I soon learned a thing or two about humanity’s appreciative mood.

The trucker said he noticed I was wearing an Air Force hat, and he asked me if I was in the service.  I said, “Yes … eight years.” He then stretched forth his hand to shake mine, and as he did, he made the claim: “I was never in the service, Sir, but I wanna thank you for keeping all of us free.” With that he walked off.

Never before had anyone ever thanked me for my military service – the gesture broke me.

With that I had flashbacks of those I’d spoken to before, ones far braver than me.

As I was writing my second novel, I had the privilege to interview several World War II veterans and among them was a black man I befriended.  Henry was from Mississippi, and he always called me “Mr. Craig.” I liked the sound of it so much I never corrected him.  Henry was in the infantry during the war and won two purple hearts, the first for shrapnel in his legs and the second for the loss of his thumb in a firefight.  Cancer took Henry’s life a couple years ago.

My wife and I met John, a WW II war correspondent and graphic artist, last summer.  We had occasion to see some of his paintings and were captivated by his talent.  We were sad to learn that only a few weeks ago cancer took his life too.  For many years John had a place in his heart for the survivors of the USS Indianapolis.  He dedicated countless hours of his own time and money to helping those men.

But time is swiftly thinning the ranks of those World War II veterans.

The last verified World War I veteran died recently at the age of 110.  She was Florence Green who served in the British Royal Women’s Air Force from 1918 to 1919.  The last American veteran of World War I was Frank Buckles; he died February 27, 2011.

World War I veterans are now extinct and WW II veterans soon will be as well.   WW II Vets are dying off at a rate of a thousand a day.

Sadly, it would seem, history is lost to the younger generation; the cause for war, to fight for freedom’s need, is little more than a faded shade of lesser importance anymore.

My wife and I were in a restaurant the other day and we noticed three men and a woman sitting at a table.  They were dressed in army uniforms.  I took it upon myself to walk around the table and shake their hands without ever saying a word; they never said a word either.  (I vow to do such things more)

If you’re a teacher, scout master, coach, minister or civic leader, take it upon yourself to educate those who look up to you in the matters of liberty the military provides.  Make it a point to take a field trip to the Veterans hospital to stimulate those young minds.  Befriend those who serve, for we all know someone who’s taken that pledge to honor and protect this great place called America.  No greater love hath someone who lays down their life for a friend; what better definition can there be for a Vet?

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at www.builderofthespirit.org.

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