Monday, November 12, 2018

A debt we can't repay ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We celebrate Veterans Day today. For some people, it will be dinner with family or shopping at the mall, or maybe watch pro football on TV. Some people will click LIKE on a few Facebook pictures of soldiers. We celebrate the federal holiday on Monday. People can sleep in and do a late lunch with friends.  We can do these things today thanks to the contributions of veterans.

Serving in the armed forces is optional now. It’s a career path young men and women choose to learn skills that will pay dividends later in life. 

Serving wasn’t always optional. I was drafted into the US Army in the early 70s. After induction, I took a battery of tests that revealed that I would do well in electronics. That was interesting because I didn’t know an amp from a volt back then, but I spent the next six months learning. 

After completing my electronics training, I received orders for my permanent duty station in the Panama Canal Zone. The young man who slept in the bunk across the aisle from mine went to Vietnam.  

In the scheme of things, all my service cost me was two years of my life. I did not bring home any permanent scars. For some veterans, the cost was much higher. Three guys I knew personally, Eugene Childers, Larry Black, and Ricky Wise, came home from Vietnam in coffins. I had an uncle that paid the ultimate price too.

In December of 1941, my Uncle Marvin Lee Ferguson was on the USS California in Hawaii.
He sent pictures home of him riding what looked like a Moped. In the photograph, he had on his Navy white uniform with his Dixie Cup hat. 

He looked like he was having the time of his life. He was dead before Christmas. He died in the opening hours of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I am proud of my Uncle Marvin Lee. The VFW in Jasper is named in his honor.

Each year, Jilda and I attend the ceremony at the Sumiton Veterans Memorial. This year, Bill Fowler, who is the director, asked us to sing a couple of songs. We sang "This Land is Your Land" and an inspirational song that we wrote entitled "The Storm Brings Out the Eagle." Singing a few songs to honor veterans is such a small price to pay. 

Walking through the memorial is a melancholy experience for me. The pavers around the memorial contain the names of men and women who served our country. There’s a paver there for Jilda’s dad, Sharky, who was a decorated medic in the US Air Force.

Those pavers represent a sacrifice. For some, the sacrifice was time away from loved ones. For others, the sacrifice was much greater. Some soldiers lost arms and legs on foreign soil. Some lost their lives there. And some came home with wounds that you cannot see with the naked eye. 

Some debts you pay off on the installment plan with interest. With a few clicks on your phone, you can determine your balance and know when you can expect to be debt free. Veterans Day brings into focus a national debt that we as a country can never repay.


  1. I hope it is different in your country but in ours our veterans don't receive the support and the assistance they need. We lose more veterans (past and present) to suicide than die in the theatre of war. I wish that the ceremonies to honour them were accompanied with ongoing support.

  2. Thanks for your service, Rick. It was a strange and unnerving time for us all.

  3. Very well written tribute and memory food. Yes some of us supported. Some of us supplied and the truth is known many of our brothers and sisters have died. But the vet followed orders and served where he was sent. from the 'Charge fo the Light Brigade' read "Into the valley of death rode the 600" Thanks you my friend for your service and sacrifice. Years are not cheap, but are honorable.

  4. What a great tribute. Truly a debt than cannot be a repaid.

  5. A beautiful tribute to our veterans. You are right, we are forever indebted to them. May they never be forgotten. Hugs
    For ever thankful, Julia

  6. The thing is, almost all american wars were fought far away from its borders.Any president, be it democratic or republican, started or continued a war. That certainly makes one think about defence or not, about war as the only way to keep the unity of a a nation, and of course, the heavy price paid by young men and their families.

  7. Anonymous4:16 PM

    We went to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor about 40 years ago. It wiped me out emotionally. I'll never forget it!!

  8. Yes it is a debt that can never be repaid.
    The older I get the more emotional I get about such things


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