November 11th is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I hostilities. There were over 100,000 soldiers lost in that war but that was only a fourth of those lost in World War II. This was the beginning of the national observance of the 11th day of the 11th month but this day of remembrance is not just for this one event.
This has become the day of remembrance for those who lost their lives defending this country in all wars. In addition, this day is a day to show honor and respect to all those who served and survived. This is the day also to remember that the freedoms and privileges enjoyed in this nation were won by sacrifice by the heroes in the fight for freedoms. But, also, in every region, state and city, there are unsung heroes who helped to win these privileges along with those who paid the ultimate price.
There is a story of one soldier in the War Between the States who survived. His descendants still tell the story about the circumstances on the day his life was spared. He was sheltering for the night with his fellow soldiers as they rested from a battle and were anticipating more to come. He lay in the last rays of that day’s light reading in his Holy Bible. A piece of shrapnel flew toward him but lodged in his Bible, not his body. His life was spared that day and this is the story we tell even though it doesn’t include awards or metals. However, there are some significant aspects that should be recorded in our memories.
What is significant is that he was free to read in a Bible. He was free to make a choice to be a part of a religion of his choice. He was free to speak (or preach) about what he read, and to write and publish what he believed. He was free to be part of an assembly in a local church as well as other public events. He was a part of a team of soldiers working together as a whole unit to secure basic freedoms for his country: religion, speech, freedom of the press, to assemble peaceably, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
About a hundred years later, Audie Murphy became known as the most decorated U. S. soldier in World War II. He won 33 awards and metals for valor under fire. At nineteen, he held off a company of German soldiers alone after witnessing the fall of his close friend. When he arrived home, he was heralded by the news media, honored in many ways, and even became an actor because of this renown. He was hailed as a hero, was a hero, but should not be honored with greater tribute than all the unsung heroes of all the wars.
There are thousands upon thousands, probably millions, of unsung heroes who have fought to establish and guard the rights and freedoms accorded to the citizens of this great country. There are millions who did their part, unsung heroes who fought the battles, who procured the supplies, who lead the training of the soldiers, who piloted the planes, who formed battle strategies, who navigated the ships, who pulled the anchors up out of the water, and a whole lot of families back home who worked to make the uniforms, who kept the farms running, who raised the children and supported the needs of the soldiers who were fighting battles far away from home. These were also unsung heroes, the home guard who kept the fires burning and lived the freedoms for which the campaigns were engaged.
On Veteran’s Day this year, observe the lesson from the trifold flags (three equal sides) that are presented to the families of casualties of war: 1—There are millions of veterans who returned home and who deserve to be honored for their sacrifices and commitment to their duty; 2—There are many unsung heroes who never the left the home front but served in the battles nevertheless; 3—There are thousands who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to keep this country free and strong.
SANDI SCOTT is Executive Director of Families First of Mississipipi.