This past Veterans Day, I found it heartwarming and enlightening to feel the support from the local community, all the way from young children at schools to World War II veterans. I also heard the perspectives of what freedom meant to many of them.
The younger children explained freedom to them as being able to choose whatever video game they would like to play, or by being able to go to a friend’s birthday party and choose whatever type of soda they would like to drink.
The older generation explained it as being able to live in the moment, with zero worries and knowing what they have provided has enabled their families and other citizens to live the lifestyle they have chosen.
After sitting down on Veterans Day, having lunch and trading war stories with two gentlemen living in an assisted living complex, we came to a mutual agreement. The wars we fight today are so drastically different from the wars they fought yesterday. We had different combat styles, equipment, technology, and sadly community backing, but at the same time, we all had one goal. Win at all costs, even if it comes to cashing in that blank check we all sign when we first raise our right hand, to provide the freedom and lifestyle we are all accustomed to. The stories they shared proved these brave men and women were willing to make whatever sacrifice.
One gentlemen explained the efforts he put forth while storming onto Omaha Beach and then again in the Battle of the Bulge. He went on to tell the story about how he was shot and after his recovery his orders were incorrect, and he was sent back into combat instead of being returned to the states.
Another retired Airmen, a B-25 pilot, shared a story about his 16th mission over Germany when his aircraft was riddled with bullets and crashed. He was one of the few to survive the crash to only to be captured and taken as a prisoner of war for approximately a year. He continued on to explain how the camp where he was being held captive was eventually liberated by none other than Gen. George C. Patton and his brigade.
These are stories you only read about in textbooks or see on the history channel, but these gentlemen lived it. It was an honor to sit at the same table. Truthfully, I felt out of place and less important as I sat among them and received thanks from them. I quickly returned the thanks and departed with a salute to each to show my respect.
As I listened to the stories these gentlemen shared with me, I also thought back to how many times my own grandfather captured my undivided attention. I could sit and listen to him for hours. It wasn’t often he would tell these stories, but when he did, it was like everything in the world stopped. My grandfather played a vital role in me choosing to join the military even though the Air Force wasn’t the branch he would have chosen for me having been a Marine. I knew he was proud either way because we both had as the same goal — provide this great nation with the freedom our ancestors have been providing throughout time.
I sleep easy at night knowing that I give it my all every day. I use all my effort to fix jets and train my replacements to do the same. I have the highest confidence in our future men and women who will wear the uniform of whatever branch they choose. In the end, we are all defending the same thing together — this great nation.