Amidst all of this week's madness with the financial markets and trying to determine which of the politicians is telling the biggest and most outlandish lies, I had a moment of pure sanity. I attended an event at the VFW post in Crawfordville on Wednesday evening. The event was to welcome home one SSG Stephen Simmons, who was recently discharged from the army after 4 tours of duty in Afghanistan.
I helped Sgt. Simmons purchase a home prior to his deployment on his last tour. He elected to purchase that home in Wakulla County. He then went to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, (and Al Quaida), watch numerous of his comrades get killed or wounded and, oh, by the way, won himself a Silver Star. He won the Silver Star for commanding a Machine Gun installation that had been abandoned and in so doing saved numerous members of his division's lives.
I have no idea what it must be like to put on the uniform of one of our military divisions and go off to war. I recently read an article written by Ben Stein entitled " Guts, Glory, Honor". It had to do with his addressing a group called the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He describes this group as mostly occupying eternity as most CMH's are awarded posthumously. There are only 171 of these recipients alive today. He said " These are men who have faced fear on a scale most of us would find unbearable, and have faced it down and defeated it with their lives."
Quoting Stein further, " We all read day and night about the billionaire speculators who have mansions bigger than the White House by virtue of their adroit minipulation of pieces of paper. They are nothing. The society could run forever without any or all of them. We read all day and see on TV all day about the spoiled , bratty movie stars and drug addicted comedians who do not even know the word gratitude, and we are supposed to care about their miserable lives. Their lives are as insignificant as the life of a roach. But tell me the last time you read a story anywhere at all - in the newspapers, in magazines, on your computer - about men who offer up their lives for our country and our freedom under law. This is disgraceful, but it really cannot touch these men."
It is touching to know that there is a community nearby that holds our heroes in high regard. Sgt. Simmons was escorted from the Northern Wakulla County line to the VFW by a police escort with sirens blairing and blue lights flashing. Following them was a cavalcade of motorcyclists who called themselves " Patriot Riders ". They all motored up to the VFW. They all stood at attention as Sgt. Simmons stepped out of the passenger side of the Florida Highway Patrol car, driven by his proud, big brother Mike. As Sgt. Simmons made his way to the hall, people applauded his return. Many went to him and shook his hand, or hugged his neck and said simple thank yous. These were people that held this the place to be. Not in front of the TV for the opening game of the World Series, not glued to FOX or CNN wringing their hands over the erosion of their 401-k's. I was proud to be there with them.
Sometimes we are allowed the opportunity to transcend the silly little worlds that most of us live in and gaze into the eyes of someone representing something good, clean, really worthwhile and singularly purposeful. I thank Sgt. Simmons and his big brother, Mike, who served as well, for giving me that opportunity. It was wonderful to forget about the sticky wicket that the economy has become and focus on something representing country, freedom and patriotism.
Our economy will hold and repair. The housing market will correct and continue on its way. It will do so because we have a lot of smart people running this country of ours. They are able to function because of the willingness of the Sgt. Simmons of this world to stand in a desert far away from home and fight the forces of evil who would destroy the very core of the greatest country ever conceived. While those of us back here watch our reality TV shows, get fatter and some even burn our flag in protest, there are soldiers willing to lay it all on the line to assure us of those freedoms.
Thank you Sgt. Simmons for touching my life this week with a pure infusion of sanity and purpose as to what is really important.
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