Give thanks to those who lie in fields of markers

Nov. 23, 2011 at 5:23 a.m.

This Thanksgiving Day, I want to concentrate on one selfless, sacrificing part of our America, our military men and women.

How do we adequately express our appreciation to those on the front lines, those who President Kennedy called "the watchmen on the walls of freedom" in a speech he never got to deliver in Dallas.

Some of them are lying tonight on the hard, barren ground of Afghanistan, searching for an elusive and dangerous enemy bent on killing them even in suicidal attacks. It's a fight that began Sept. 11 a decade ago, when maniacal extremists from those same factions took down our tallest buildings and killed thousands of our brothers and sisters.

Others among our soldiers, sailors and airmen are still patrolling the cities of Iraq as peacekeepers and guardians, enduring suicide bombers and militant insurgents with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

I pray today for our fellow Americans spread across the 38th Parallel of latitude that separates the two Koreas, drawing sporadic gunfire and living with the tension that comes with constant threats from the enemy's deranged dictator.

Many thousands of our comrades serve here in the United States, at Army posts, Naval bases and air stations and Air Force bases. Some might say they're not on the front lines, but in this modern world of terrorism we have already seen that America, too, is a battlefield of good versus evil. Therefore, all our military branches, including the vigilant Coast Guard, cannot let down their guard for even a day.

In Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics across our land are the valiant ones who serve to remind us of the price they paid for our freedom. Some have lost limbs, others suffer the scarring and pain of severe burns, and many have traumatic brain injuries from which some may never fully recover. God bless them. God bless them.

In my travels through almost 70 years on this earth, I've managed to pay my respects at many cemeteries where our veterans lie, having given all they could possibly give to their country.

I walked through the Punch Bowl cemetery in Hawaii, where dead from Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War are at rest after a job well done.

Arlington National Cemetery was a somber and moving place to visit and salute the brave ones from many conflicts.

The big Fort Logan Cemetery in Denver contains the earthly remains of many of our fallen guardians, and it is perpetually cared for in their honor.

Once, I even received a letter from a man in The Netherlands who was caring for an American soldier's grave in a beautiful cemetery in his homeland. The soldier, a Cuero farm boy, had joined the Army after Pearl Harbor and died on German soil, but was taken to The Netherlands for burial in the huge Margraten American Military Cemetery.

The man wanted to know more about this soldier so he could "talk" to him as he visited the grave and tidied it up. Imagine - more than a half-century after that Cuero boy helped free his country from the Nazis, this man was still so grateful that he bent down on creaky knees to clean that grave.

On this special day, and every day of the year, how could we possibly be any less grateful?

Jim Bishop is the former managing editor and executive editor of the Advocate. He lives in Victoria.



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