Memorial Day Weekend at Blue Ridge Lake in the North Georgia Mountains has been amazing as we have reflected on the truth that ...FREEDOM IS NOT FREE...
As a 50 something woman, I know some heroes that have died for our country in Vietnam or other conflicts and I know many others that have survived their time spent serving our country in some United States Military capacity.
My own brother, John, is a retired Marine that was emergently flighted off the battlefield in 'Nam in need of appendectomy surgery. Thankfully, his commanders sent him back home to America for recovery. This was a very trying time for our nation as our communities' young men, age 18, were drafted, badly injured or even died in this horrific combat. After Vietnam, John continued as a United States Marine serving in many future U. S. conflicts, including the Gulf War. My brother is the father of three incredible children and the husband of a beautiful and talented woman. John is truly a living hero!
Another living hero joined us for our cookout yesterday. We had 17 people in all, and eleven of these were students between the ages of 17 and 21. We decided to ask this living hero, our brother-in-law, Jim to share his personal military experiences with us. In particular, we wanted these young people to hear from Uncle Jim to help them develop more of an understanding and appreciation of the reason for this Memorial Day holiday that we all look so forward to.
Jim graduated high school in Tennessee in 1964 and went onto complete his college degree in 1968. Our country was in the height of the Vietnam Conflict at this time. Jim knew it was just a short matter of time before his draft notice would appear in his mailbox, so he worked at miscellaneous jobs as he waited. On December 8, 1968 he received his draft notice and was sworn in to the U. S. Army. Jim went through basic training, AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) and then onto OCS (Officer Cadet School for Engineering) On February 13, 1970, Jim graduated as a 2nd LT, top of his class as a Distinguished Military Graduate with the privilege of a choice of where he wanted to serve his tour. He chose 3rd Army Headquarters at Fort McPherson,
GA, which followed his Vietnam Training School.
Later, in April, 1972, Jim was promoted to Captain with orders for Vietnam. At this same time, the U.S. started the cutback of troops and President Richard Nixon asked if anyone wanted to get out of the service early. Uncle Jim raised his hand and the rest is history... Jim went onto meet my beautiful sister, whom he has been married to for over 35 years and they raised two wonderful children together. Jim has lived his life with noble purpose, generous service to God and man, and a work ethic beyond compare.
Jim's final message to us this Memorial Day goes like this:
"Thank you, America, for allowing me to serve a country to protect the freedoms that we have now and the freedoms for generations to come. GOD BLESS AMERICA. "
And one other living hero, whom I have never met, was recognized on Good Morning America on March 5th back in 2003. Charlie Gibson was interviewing General Earl Hailston, the commanding general of Marine Forces Central Command. The general was waiting with his troops just a few miles off the border of Iraq...waiting to go to war. Toward the end of the interview, Charlie asked him if he had any hobbies.
The general said, "Yes, I love photography, especially taking photos of my men."
He shared that while he had been waiting for the past few days he took photos of his men, and at night he would email the photos with a brief note to their mothers back in the USA. Charlie asked if he could see a sample of a letter and the general walked into his tent, turned on his computer, and read the last letter he had sent.
Dear Mrs. Johnson,
I thought you might enjoy seeing this picture of your son. He is doing great. I also wanted you to know that you did a wonderful job raising him. You must be very proud. I can certainly tell you that I am honored to serve with him in the U.S. Marines.
General Earl Hailston
What living hero have you been honored to share your life journey with?