Sunday is Veterans’ Day. It is a day where we are to salute all veterans. As an aside, I want to remind you of the wonderful program at the Civic Center in Des Moines this Sunday where the Iowa Military Veterans’ Band will be doing a major free concert. You might remember their outstanding concert they did at the theater in Albia less than two years ago. It will be a wonderful program.

Throughout the history of the United States, from the first militiaman who stood at Lexington and Concord to all of our troops stationed around the world, many in harm’s way, we have honored and held in high regard all those who have enabled us to live in freedom and liberty.

There have been times that some have not, but overwhelmingly this nation has indeed honored those brave men and women who have given us so much at their own sacrifice and expense. It was on 100 years ago that our brave doughboys started returning home from The Great War in Europe, WWI.

Shortly thereafter, Theodore Roosevelt Jr, son of the great president, and some of his friends were the catalyst to start one of the greatest service organizations ever- the American legion. Roosevelt, by the way rose to be a general and like his father, would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism on D-Day many years later.

The recognition day that was known as Armistice Day by Woodrow Wilson became what we know as Veterans’ Day. 240 years of sacrifice and honor have signaled the contributions of so many millions, not just in war but in peacetime after their service.

In growing up as a lad in Monroe County, I was honored and privileged to know and chat with some of our WWI heroes. They are all gone and now in this county where over 1,500 young men and women served in WWII in a fight to save the world, only eight remain.

It has already been a sad fall as three have left us. Several, including my dad who just turned 101 this week, are in care centers. The roll call grows shorter and shorter.

My dad is blessed to have his mind intact and we still discuss and I read to him things that perk his interest about those days long ago when he, like so many, served this nation. He has not lost his sense of patriotism one bit nor, I might add, his interest in the news.

The old county auditor and commissioner of elections was wanting all the info he could get on this election. As I grew up watching these men, I saw them gather and share their closeness as a “Band of Brothers.” I saw them build ballfields, churches, communities not just here but everywhere from cities to hamlets. I revered them and still and will forever do that. I will always believe they were our, as Tom Brokaw said, “greatest generation.”

Men followed them too. In Korea, and in Vietnam and other places and we have been so fortunate here in this county to see so many of them follow in the footsteps of those over two centuries, the great citizen soldiers who gave so much and, as I said earlier, continued to when they came home.

With the Welcome Home Soldier Monument and the soon Freedom Rock, we have taste of how we here revere all they gave us. All, many continue to give us.

In the pantheon of our history, many great names stand out from their legendary feats and exploits but far more are known only to families in places all over America. To me, all of them, as my dad, and others of his generation, are all heroes, including those who serve now in the Middle East.

On this Veterans’ Day, I ask all of us to pray for all of them, all of them. And may we thank God for all of them, past and present. The words of one of my heroes, Major Dick Winters, of Easy Company 101st Airborne, echo in my mind. The great historian Steven Ambrose wrote of them so well. Winters is gone now but he hit it so well when he quoted a story one of his men told him many years later. The man’s grandson asked him, “Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?” The man of Easy Company said, “No, but I served in a company of heroes.”

Indeed, we have been surrounded as is every community in America with heroes. All of them. God bless them. Make it a point to pray for them and thank them this weekend and whenever you can. On this Pastor’s Corner, do not forget to thank God also for our freedoms and that He lovingly sent us such men and women over our history to allow us to become what, at our best was so noble and good.

To all of you veterans, from this fortunate son and citizen, I salute you.

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