It was a bitterly cold winter morning with plenty of snow on the ground.  The day was December 16, 1944. The German Army was launching a counteroffensive near the village of Krinkelt, Belgium.  It would later be known as "The Battle of the Bulge." A 23-year old sergeant led an American squad at one of the forward positions. He was wounded but refused to be evacuated. The orders were to hold at all costs. During the battle he rescued other squad members on several different occasions. Later, when the Germans were threatening to overrun his position, he destroyed an enemy tank with a rocket launcher and single-handedly wiped out an enemy machine gun nest.  Eventually his squad ran out of ammunition and they were forced to surrender.  Their stand made it possible for reinforcements to gather and turn back the German offensive in that area.

Today, if you travel to Savannah, Tennessee, you will cross the Tennessee River on the Harrison-McGarity Bridge.  It is named after Bolden Harrison, a World War I recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Vernon McGarity, the 23-year old sergeant in the battle near Krinkelt, Belgium. Sergeant McGarity was born in Hardin County, Tennessee.  For his heroic action on December 16, 1944, Sergeant Vernon McGarity was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It is a beautiful November morning in Middle Tennessee.  The fall colors are lingering, almost like they are hesitant to signal the beginning of winter. There are no clouds in the sky and the temperature is hovering at 55 degrees. Some people had a bad day with their football team yesterday. Others are complaining about something the President of the United States did or did not do.  Still others are just complaining about this or that.

It is Veterans Day once again.  I wonder sometimes what our children know about freedom . . . how we got it and how we keep it.  Thankfully, in the last 15 years more attention has been aimed at our veterans. Some of it came through movies like "Saving Private Ryan" and "We Were Soldiers Once." "Band of Brothers" was a popular HBO mini-series based on the book by Stephen Ambrose. Veterans really are a band of brothers. For many of them their song is now silent because of their passing, but their music reverberates throughout the halls of every school, church, home, courthouse, and business in America.  It is the song of freedom.  It is why we can complain.  It allows protesters to march. It is why we have so many different religions and so many nationalities in our country, most of whom are proud to be here.

We are free today because whenever duty has called, whether it was World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, or the Middle East, and other areas across the world, this band of brothers has played the music . . . and in the case of Vietnam, kept playing no matter how unpopular the song.  Politics aside, it doesn't matter if we believe we should be in a particular war. We have that right. But we owe it to the men and women who serve to support them.  That is why we have this day.  Look at the sky. Breathe the free air.  Worship freely on Sunday.  Remember veterans like Vernon McGarity and see if it doesn't change your perspective and maybe even cause a tear the next time you hear the song, "God Bless America." It is music made possible by this band of brothers.

 

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