Most are unsung heroes who have laid their lives on the line for their country in the name of American ideals like freedom, opportunity and choice. Those who have fought on foreign battlefields, and who survived, would simply say, “I was just doing my job.”
Sometimes it’s thankless work.
From within the security of our living rooms back home, the luxury of our warm beds and the comfort of a hot meal it is easy to take for granted those in combat boots thousands of miles away marching in distant jungles, sweltering through arid deserts and climbing atop towering mountains who face uncertainty with every morning dawn.
Those whose lives are taken in service to their country are our fallen heroes. They have made the ultimate sacrifice. These warriors are to be honored. Their memory is our nation’s mandate.
Those who return home debilitated by enemy fire or emotionally scarred from the fight do not seek pity. This is not their want nor do they wish special treatment that would set them apart as anything more than a normal human being. They ask only for opportunity — a hand up as they rebuild their lives and regain a sense of belonging to family and community. They too are every bit the hero as their fallen comrades.
Those who come back whole — in sound mind, healthy body and strong spirit are just as due our compassion. They are survivors. These soldiers are our loved ones. They fought by staunch conviction and with unmatched courage. Like their lost buddies in arms, these brave gladiators are due our praise.
They too are heroes.
They are unsung heroes.
Unsung because they are among the living. They survived. All are happy to be home, but some cling to an unwarranted guilt that they lived while their friends died. It is an unspoken part of war. It is a tragedy of the aftermath.
In time, and through endearing support of family and loved ones, they cope with what is real and that which is perceived. Most will come to grips with this truth. All have earned the rite of passage into a new day.
It is for these heroes — the fallen, the wounded and the standing — that recognition is due.
Such distinction in our Cleveland hometown awaits one who will be named “Patriotic Veteran of the Year” on Nov. 11 at the community’s annual Veterans Day Ceremonies. Nominations will be accepted at the Bradley County Veterans Affairs Office in Room 105 of the courthouse. Deadline is Nov. 1.
Past soldiers are not required to have a veterans organization membership.
The nomination form will include the candidate’s name and address. It will provide educational information and a brief history of the individual’s military service. The application also asks for insights into the candidate’s contributions to patriotism and the community, state and nation; honors bestowed upon the candidate; civic and religious affiliations; and a family history.
Honoring local veterans was instilled in our Cleveland and Bradley County heritage 30 years ago. It is a charge we do not take lightly as evidenced by past recipients of the Raymond Miller Patriotic Veteran of the Year Award.
They include Herb Wendell, Stan Evans, Morris Greene, Bobby Taylor, R.L. Murray, Charles Price, Carl Goins, Gerald Williams, Virgil Carmichael, Joe Corn Stuart, Wendell Childrey, Henry Barkley, Frank Cummings, Bob Link, Everett Parks, Tom Rowland, Ralph Ownby, Ralph Riden, Col. James Corn, Jack Wilson, John Simmons, Larry Holcomb, Joseph Blackburn, Kenneth Tinsley, Bill Norwood, Robert Meeks, Jim Armour, Gary Benefield and Steve Stewart.
It is an honorable roll call.
One to which we anxiously await the 2010 addition.