My wife and I have visited Branson, Missouri on several occasions the past few years. Aside from the wonderful shows that are offered in that great vacation spot is something that warms the heart. Sometime before, during or after each show presented there, the Veterans of the United States Military are recognized. They are asked to stand to receive the expressed thanks from the audience through applause. Sometime the recognition is cascaded by the particular branch's song being played as those Veterans in that branch rise for recognition. This recognition is a part of each show during the entire year, not just around Veteran's Day.
I have no idea how this tradition was started, or by whom. It is such a wonderful idea and being a Veteran, I for one really appreciate the remembrance of service. America is a country of services in almost every walk of life. Services are offered in corporate America and in the volunteer sector. People volunteer in service groups, churches, day cares, nursing homes, residential services for individuals with disabilities, homeless centers, recreational centers, Boy and Girl Scouts, hospitals, schools and almost every other charitable concern imaginable. Americans are generous people and giving is a part of life.
Another characteristic of Americanism is freedom. The country was founded on the ideals and principles of each individual being free and enjoying the rights that God has given. So much so that our own Congress declared on July 4, 1776 that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
With the foundational values of volunteerism and Creator-given unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, Americans have traditionally marched off to foreign countries when called. From the "Midnight Ride" in the American Revolution to the latest Afghanistan War Americans have listened to the siren calls of warning that the country was in danger and freedom was being threatened. They have lined up to endure the rigors of training, hardships of interrupted lives, separations from families, entry into foreign lands, open risk of enemy fire, reality of capture, and the great possibility of sacrificing their lives to preserve freedom for everyone. Aside from justice and continued freedom, the greatest commodity produced by wars is the American Veteran.
Each war beginning with the American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan War and Iraq War has produced tens of thousands of Veterans. These Veterans have received mixed welcomes after their service in hard-fought wars.
Animosity against Southern fighters lasted for many years following the American Civil war. Returning Veterans from the Vietnam War were met with harsh responses from Americans who were war-weary. Some were even spat upon and demeaned as they tried to re-assimilate into the American mainstream. In contrast, modern Americans have turned the corner on respect and revere related to Veterans since the darker days of post-Vietnam.
An all-volunteer military of the modern times has tapped into the patriotism of Americans in general. Vietnam caused a slight derailment in the American bedrock of Democracy, freedom and independence, but citizens, by and large, have now returned to their heritage upon which our nation was founded. Young men and women have gathered beyond the military's quotas and have volunteered for service in all branches of the military. Honor, duty and the "no man left behind" collective thinking has prevailed in all branches of military service and the Veterans leaving their tours of duty have demonstrated that higher calling and determination by infusing back into the National consciousness the reality of who we are as Americans and what we owe our Veterans.
I believe the organizers of the Branson Shows and the Chamber of that city have absolutely done the right thing to show their respect to the Military Veterans and I applaud them for their continued efforts. I would like to think that each Veteran who stands when asked at each of those shows look around and immediately knows, without a doubt, these are my brothers with whom I have shared one of the greatest responsibilities of my life, and one of the greatest blessings to have contributed to the continued preservation of the American dream of freedom, justice and independence.
Jim Killebrew, Veteran, United States Air Force