Thursday, November 25, 2010

Star spangled reasons to give thanks

Let’s get right down to it. This ain’t been a great year.

Recession. Political bickering. Floods. Earthquakes. Locusts. (OK, I made that last one up.)

But, oh, do we have much for which to be thankful. Look around sometime when you’re walking down a busy sidewalk or eating out. Chances are one of the reasons is right beside you.

I am thankful for Randy Kington. Randy heeded his country’s call, went to war and got shot in the neck. He can’t use his legs.

But that didn’t keep this mighty marine down. He found his faith in that godforsaken Asian jungle, married a good woman and travels around the country, telling his tale. He even calls it the greatest day of his life.

I am thankful for Gerald Clark, US Army, Greatest Generation. Gerald lost his leg in Germany during the waning days of World War II. He didn’t let that keep him down, either.

In fact, Gerald says losing his leg was the best thing that ever happened to him. Because, he says, “I can empathize with people.”

Gerald became a minister. He worked hard behind the scenes to make the Ben Atchley Veterans Home a reality. So humble is Gerald he didn’t even mention it when interviewed by a reporter.

He smiles real big when he says that his coworkers at TVA were shocked when they finally found out he possessed a prosthetic leg.

“That was the best compliment I’ve ever received,” he says.

I am thankful for Clyde Beeler, proud Navy guy, who survived a typhoon on board the USS Pittsburgh. Clyde did his job and he did it well. When asked what he did after the war, he said, “Well, I didn’t do anything for awhile. Just hunted and fished.” That’s OK, ‘cause Clyde had earned the R&R.

I am thankful for Bruce Blakely, super stud on the Red Devil football field circa 1968. Big Bruce could have probably played college ball somewhere. But he joined the Marines, wound up in the ‘Nam, and lost his life there, walking point on a night when he didn’t have to.

Those who later served with him said that when Bruce saw the flash of light that turned out to be another marine’s cigarette, he told his squad to spread out. Had he not done so, they all might have been killed by friendly fire.

I am so thankful for Randy, Gerald, Clyde, Bruce and thousands and thousands of others just like them. I’m thankful for John Sevier and all those Revolutionary heroes, who told the Brits to take their tea and stuff it. I am thankful for Andy Jackson’s Tennessee Volunteers, running through the briars and brambles on that little trip in 1814, ending the War of 1812 after it was already finished.

I am thankful for those who went to Mexico, for the Yankees and the Rebels, for the studs who went to the Spanish-American War. I am thankful for those who stood tall in the trenches during the Great War. And you better believe I’m thankful for the Greatest Generation.

One corner of my heart is reserved for those who went to Korea, now sadly called the Forgotten War. And shame on us, ‘cause that never should be forgotten. I am thankful for all 58,000 names on that stark, black Gabbro wall in Washington, never to return from ‘Nam. And I salute those who have gone to the Gulf, twice now, and those awesome Americans in Afghanistan.

I give special thanks to those buried in figurative and literal Flanders Fields, for they offered up the last full measure of devotion. For it is they who gave me the freedom of the press, the freedom to worship as I choose, the ability to vote, the blessing of living in the greatest country on earth.

And let’s never forget the POWs and MIAs — who never made it home.

Oh, yes, friends, I am indeed thankful this Thanksgiving. These are but a few of the million star-spangled reasons why.

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