Oh, the People You’ll Meet

norman1

I culminated my last post with an observation that motorcycles open doors to meeting people you would not otherwise encounter.  This past week, as my buddy Terry and I were riding through the Texas Hill country, that proved true.

Just southeast of Kerrville lies the tiny town of Medina, where my family would vacation in my childhood years.  Terry and I stopped at the general store for a soft drink and a snack.  As we were stretching our legs, an old gent pulled into the parking lot and approached us with a broad grin.  Terry struck up a conversation about his veteran’s cap, and the two of them began swapping military memories.

Norman Rigsby is a survivor of World War II, specifically D-Day.  I remember travelling to Normandy and Omaha beaches in France a few years back.  Over 160,000 soldiers stormed the beaches, and over 9,000 were killed or wounded in a single day.  Norman survived.  Later in the war, he was twice wounded.  When he could no longer serve as an infantryman, they assigned him to motorcade duties on a 1946 Harley Davidson.  His grin grew even bigger when he pulled from his shirt pocket a picture of him on his Harley.  He had the honor of escorting General George Patton’s entourage.

I found my eyes getting watery as Norman told of lying in a medic tent with an empty body bag waiting beside his cot, since they didn’t expect him to survive. He did survive, though, and I am privileged to have met him.  At a spry 92 years of age, he shared his philosophy of long life (which I choose not to share here for reasons of my own – sorry). He, and others like him, are the reason they are called “The Great Generation.”

I also think of my father, who served in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. That word, “conflict,” certainly waters things down, doesn’t it? It wasn’t a conflict; it was a war.  My father worked in the K9 corps, as an MP guarding an ammo dump in Okinawa. He never talked much about it, saying it was a dark time in his life.  He did, however, use his veteran status as an opportunity to reach out to other veterans.

My friend, Terry, also saw combat duty.  He served three tours in Iraq in the recent wars, Desert storm and Iraqi Freedom.  He knows first-hand the mental and emotional impact of duck-and-cover during artillery fire and the grueling grief of seeing fallen comrades.

These men, I consider true heroes.  To a man, they say the same: “I was just doing my job.” Their job was to give up their freedom and safety to protect ours.  They did that job for woefully little pay and under horrendous conditions.  They don’t usually care to discuss it much in-depth, except with other veterans.  They don’t brag. These men, in my opinion, come the closest to identifying with the mission and sacrifice of Christ, who gave up all position and power to sacrifice himself in our behalf and for our benefit.

This Independence Day, if you encounter a veteran, thank that person.  Honor the service and sacrifice, whatever your political leanings.  Your right to disagree, your freedom to debate how wrong or right those wars (or any wars) may be, your right was purchased by these men and women.  Norman, Terry, and all others, my hat is off to you today.

norman2

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Published in: on July 3, 2017 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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