…. a re-posting of his State-Winning Speech on Veteran’s Day, my son, Brandin Frey. I think this speech applies to Memorial Day as well, and in honor of my son serving in Boot Camp right now, I’m putting this out there. Thank you son. I am proud of you.
On Veterans day, we pay tribute and give deserved honor to our Veterans.
We pause long enough to hear their stories of valor and courage, and to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
We stand together united regardless of race, religion, politics, and even age – to celebrate the universal gift of freedom our American Soldiers have given us.
For my Great-Grandmother, Veterans day is not only a reminder of the two years she prayed for her husband, to come home from Korea alive, but of the man she got to love for sixty years, his courage even after the battlefield, his devotion to what was right, his commitment and obedience to continuing to be a man of integrity and a leader in our family.
My Great Grandfather went to war because it was the right thing to do, but he carried that on in his heart and in his will as a husband, a father, a VP of an oil company, and as a Minister through all the years of his life.
As I played Taps at my Great Grandfather’s grave site the day of his funeral, the men in uniform saluting, I knew what proud looked like.
The melody known as TAPS was first born in 1862, from the pocket of a young dead soldier. Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe lay hidden on the Union side of the battlefield when late in the night he heard moans and distress cries coming from what would be the Confederate side of the army field. Not knowing if the soldier was the enemy, he risked his life to retrieve the dying soldier. Back in his own camp, he lit a lantern, and as the face of the young soldier lit up in the night, the Captain’s breath was stolen in the realization that the young boy… was his own son.
His son had been studying music when the early enlistments had begun, and after his father had left for war, he had secretly signed up to fight. Captain Ellicombe requested a Union Army funeral for his son, but had been denied the full service. They gave permission to have one musician at the funeral, the Captain requested he play a Bugle, and that the musician play the notes hand scrawled on a small scrap piece of paper that the Captain had found in the pocket of his son’s uniform the night he died.
That melody was TAPS.
Despite Captain Ellicombe’s son having fought for the Confederate Army, and not on the Union side like his father, I can only imagine the haunting pride his father must have felt, for his son had followed in his foot-steps, and had died with honor, ultimately, in his own father’s arms.
In those last moments they shared the reality of being willing to die for what you believe in, no matter the cost. As the soldiers at my Great-Grandfathers grave-site saluted, I lifted my Great-Grandfather’s bugle to my mouth, and as the notes from Captain Ellicombe’s son drifted out across the cemetery, I became connected to my own eternal story of the great men in my family who had lived and fought the very same way.
John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
My father had already served two tours when he sat me down several years ago to tell me he was going to Iraq again. One of the many things I’ve learned from my father is that just because something is difficult to do, doesn’t mean you don’t do it anyway.
The day my father left for his third tour in Iraq, in 2008, we said our goodbye’s in the drive-way of a rental house we’d had to move into in another town due to our home being renovated after a tornado. I had to leave my home, my town, my friends, my school, and temporarily start life all over again … and now, without my father.
I was twelve years old when my he bent down in front of me and without getting emotional said, “You’ve got to take care of the girls now, son. You’ll be alright. I love you.”
I knew what he was asking of me, because he was being required to ask it of himself. Soldiers put their country and duty and honor first, and for those of us who have had to say goodbye, and watch them walk away from us, we also know the lesson they are teaching. With duty and honor, there is also love.
For a selected few soldiers, there is a unique award which serves to give evidence to their valor in action during a time of war. This award is called The Congressional Medal of Honor. In the state of Iowa, there are 54 Medal of Honor recipients including Air Force Major George E. Bud Day out of Sioux Falls. His story is one that is recognized across the country as being the grandest stories of heroism told today.
Colonel Day holds every significant combat award there is and is the most decorated soldier of our time since General Douglas MacArthur. He survived two tours in the Far East as a fighter bomber pilot, and lived to tell about the several times he was shot down from the skies, beaten to near death as a POW, and how he fought to live through weeks on end of being stranded in enemy territory. When Colonel Day was captured at Hanoi, the conditions were beyond barbaric, and the torture lasted for many soldiers more than several years.
An article about this time, published in 1999, written by C. Douglas Sterner at home of the heroe’s online, writes, ” In February, 1971 several American prisoners at the Hoa Loa camp gathered for a forbidden religious service. Suddenly they were interrupted by the enraged enemy guards. As the guards burst into the meeting room with rifles pointed at the prisoners, one of the Americans stood to his feet. Ragged, battered but unbroken, it was George Day. Looking into the muzzles of the enemy rifles he began to sing. The song was “The Star Spangled Banner”, our National Anthem.
Next to him another prisoner stood. Soon the other prisoners joined the refrain, and then from throughout the entire prison camp, came the sounds of others. Stockdale, who would join “Bud” Day in receiving Medals of Honor five years later wrote that, although he was punished for the episode, it was exhilarating: “Our minds were now free and we knew it.”
After being honorably discharged from the service after 30 years, Day became an attorney and that is when the answer to his life-long question, “What was God saving him for?” was answered. It was 1995 when the United States Military announced that all health benefits for Veterans would be discontinued. Colonel Day is quoted as saying, in Siouxland Lifestyle Magazine, “This was a plain disloyal breach of contract. I was both outraged and insulted!”
Yet, ever the soldier standing tall, ready to fight for purpose, Day began the journey of fighting Congress to appeal the decision.
He would be fighting for over 1.5 million Soldiers, on a legal battlefield, that would truly change the lives of hundreds of millions. His battle began in 1995, and in 2002, Day was told that because of his testimony and his ever-relentless fight – the United States Supreme Court awarded a new bill passed called Tri-Care for life.
This new medical insurance would grant soldiers and veterans alike, a life-time access to medical care after retirement. Day had won.
I am not related to Colonel Bud Day, but his story changed my life beginning from the day I was born, in a hospital in California, in February, the same month Day sang that song, in the year 1995, when my parents paid for my delivery using TriCare. In 2002, after the bill was passed, my father will be granted the right to life-time medical care after his twenty years, in active duty. We are proud of our Veteran’s, and grateful for our freedoms … but let us also make them proud in who we become as following generations, let us ask ourselves, in the choices we make every day, which direction will lead us towards being deserving of our freedom.
When we can choose between serving ourselves and serving others, and in our day to day actions are we aware of how our attitudes and efforts can change the lives of those around us for the better?
What legacy will we leave to our following generations?
I want to live a life that Veteran’s such as my Great-Grandfather, father, and Colonel Bud Day could look at, on any given moment, and without a doubt believe in the exceptional purpose for which they fought.
Today’s calendar does not mark Veteran’s Day.
But today… we breathe.
Today, we are free.
Today, we hold our loved ones and can dream of our future’s.
Today, and every day, we have the opportunity to honor and respect the very fact that because of Veteran’s … we get to go home.
We are proud of our Veteran’s, and grateful for our freedoms … but let us also make them proud in who we become as following generations, let us ask ourselves, in the choices we make every day, which direction will lead us towards being deserving of our freedom.
This year, on March 14th, I answered that question for myself as I stood and took the oath, swearing in to the United States Army National Guard, and as my father stood nearby at attention, I committed to exemplify and follow the powerful examples of all the men who served before and now beside me. As a young man, and now a soldier, for my future family, and my for my sisters and my mother … I knew there was no better way for me to honor them than to serve them.
The true heart of a man is in the life he seeks to live so that others are inspired and equipped to live the life they were meant to. Every day, as far as I’m concerned, is Veteran’s Day.