It has been a season of protests at sporting events. Some are disillusioned with the current state of affairs in race relations so they are expressing their concerns by protesting the national anthem.  That is their right and I would agree there are injustices in race relations. Those injustices are caused by people, not  by the flag, the national anthem, or the military. I agree with their objective and I understand  they are not protesting the military but I wish they could find another way to voice their concern.  That is just me.  I can't think of the flag without thinking of the military, particularly the two men I write about today.

His grave is nondescript. It looks like any one of a thousand others around him.  His gravesite, near the Amphitheater, is the second most visited grave in Arlington Cemetary . . . behind that of John F. Kennedy.  Before he reached his 21st birthday he had become the most decorated soldier of World War II.  His name was Audie Murphy.  He received his Medal of Honor for action near Holtswihr, France, in 1944.  He returned home from the war a hero, makeing the cover of Life Magazine in July of 1945.  He had parades, accolades from the country he loved, and went on to become one of the biggest movie stars of the 1950's.  He suffered from "post-traumatic stress disorder" and never got over the torment of losing close friends in combat.  He died, unhero-like, in a plane crash outside of Roanoke, Virginia, in 1971.

His grave, like Audie Murphy's, is nondescript.  It looks like any one of a thousand others around him. His gravesite, in the area of the Amphitheater near the Tomb of the Unknowns, is seldom visited. Hardly anyone has ever heard of him. After two tours of duty in Vietnam and by the time he was 29 years old he had become the most decorated combat soldier of the Vietnam War.  His total of 37 medals was more than Audie Murphy and Alvin York.  His name was Joe Hooper.  He received his Medal of Honor for action near Hue, Republic of Vietnam, in 1968.  He returned home from the war -- alone and forgotten. The covers of magazines eluded him.  There were no parades, no accolades from the country he loved, only shouts of "baby-killer!"  He struggled with "post traumatic stress disorder" and never got over the torment of losing close friends in combat. He died, unhero-like, from a cerebral hemorrhage in a motel room in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1979.

Those are two of the reasons I would prefer another form of protest.  There are a million more. The gravestones of Audie Murphy and Joe Hooper may be small and nondescript but I have stood in their giant shadows in Arlington Cemetary. I was moved and I felt unworthy trying to imagine what they experienced during and after their wars.  Many of the veterans who survive the rain of bombs and bullets in wartime seem to stuggle through the reign of sorrow and suffering in peacetime.  I consider them heroes.

I am thankful for Audie Murphy, Joe Hooper, and all of our veterans, past and present.  Veterans Day is an opportunity to express our thankfulness.  It is a time to stand in the shadow of that 95-year old man who is now confined to a wheelchair, or that 70-year old man who still walks with a limp, or that 19-year old boy fighting on foreign soil today and take a moment to reflect on our freedom. Yes, our country has problems but they are not the fault of our veterans. They deserve our respect, our gratitude, and our remembering.  God help us all if we ever forget.

  

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