Dr. Bill Atwood

Eternal thanks

This week we have the opportunity to say thanks to one large group of heroes and a smaller subset of that larger group. On Friday, Nov. 11, we will stop as a nation and take time to honor the brave men and women who have stepped up to the task and have joined the ranks of the military. The veterans are our line of defense against all our enemies. They have taken an oath to protect and defend us anywhere at any time, against anybody. God gives us our rights, the Constitution guarantees that the government can’t take those rights away but it is the veteran who backs the whole system.

They are the ones that leave home and hearth to stand the watch. They are the ones who stand guard here and abroad. They are the ones who run into battles and harm’s way. They are the ones that are injured or killed in battles. It is their blood that gushes out of their bodies into the sands of deserts or beaches. It’s the American veteran whose blood went into the soil in jungles or forests. It is that American veteran who finds themselves in the ocean without any help as the ship heads to the bottom.

We can’t thank them often enough, and we really can’t thank them enough for what they have done. Every single day I awaken with gratitude for the sacrifices that were made so that you and I get to breathe as free people. This past Tuesday we went to the polls and selected our new leadership.

As I marked my ballot at the Bass Lake Fire Station, in that little booth I said a silent prayer of thanks that this American gets to speak his mind at the election. I thanked the more than one million veterans who died ensuring my right to vote. I thanked the millions who were injured, scarred, maimed, burned, blinded, deafened, or who were held prisoner by ruthless enemies.

On Wednesday we woke to the results of most of the elections and life went on in America. On Friday we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. Last May we honored the battle wounded and killed in action (KIA) on Memorial Day. Tomorrow we honor all who served in uniform. There will be parades, concerts and memorial services throughout the land, and we who have benefited from the freedom they paid for have the obligation, as well as the honor, to pause and pay our respects to the fallen as well as our thanks to the survivors.

For reasons unknown to me, I have been thinking the past couple of weeks about two veterans who I never met and who never met each other. Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. was the only casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis back in October 1962. His plane was shot down by a Russian and he died in that incident at age 35. I have been thinking about my “POW” Captain Samuel Deichlemann who at age 29 was shot down during the Vietnam conflict. His body was never recovered and I wore a POW Bracelet with his name for years. Others have died and others have been injured and others have served. We owe them.

The smaller group that I wish to honor is celebrating their 241st birthday. The United States Marine Corps came into being on Nov. 10, 1775, in a tavern and the rest, as they say, is history. Never a mutiny, never a failure to carry out their stated mission, never surrender, and never forgetting that “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”

Theirs is a history rich in tradition and valor. From the shores of Tripoli when we were fighting piracy against American shipping vessels to Montezuma’s Halls, the Marines were there. When you want to share with people about what the Marines have done, just start mentioning a few battles. Lexington, Concord, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Chosin Reservoir, Tinian, and hundreds of others.

Ronald Reagan made the comment that a Marine never has to wonder if he has served a great purpose in his life. Amen to that.

I learned many years ago that there were only two people willing to die for me. One died on a cross and the other is an American veteran. I’m not worthy of either’s sacrifice but I am truly grateful for it.

So veterans, I offer my eternal thanks. To my dad’s fellow Marines I offer a hearty thank you, happy birthday wishes, and “Semper Fi.”