Honoring Those Who Have Served Our Country By Serving Our Communities

Army. Air Force. Coast Guard. Veterans are my blood.

When I was little, my brother and I played the best made-up game: Killer Bees. We were willing participants, always on board. We were the ones running for our lives. We were the ones fearful of the monster pollinators.

words + photograph JULIE JOHNSON

The object, the goal, the mission was to run like the wind, jump on the couch, hunker down under a blanket, be extraordinarily quiet and wait. And wait. And wait for the killer bees to pounce. The anticipation was thick. As you can imagine, being quiet under such dire circumstances led to many-a-giggle. My brother, only fueling the fire of my rapid heart rate, would slowly lower the cover covering his head and look for the position of the enemy. I listened for movement, knowing his safety was in jeopardy. No more than a few seconds would go by before he threw the cover back around us, exclaiming, “Killer bees! They’re coming!” Thing is, rarely did the killer bees ever come close because the players who were supposed to be playing the killer bees didn’t want to play the killer bees. Although my brother and I were actively defending ourselves as though everyone in the room were actively hunting us, this was hardly ever the case.

It. did. not. matter. We did not care.

Seconds turned to minutes which turned to months that led to years, and my brother graduated from Kickapoo High School and joined the U.S. Air Force. After four years of high level security clearance, two of which led him to the Royal Air Force, he was honorably discharged and enrolled in college, first on the East Coast and then in the South.

My brother came home for the holidays. When he wasn’t here for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, he would serve meals to those who didn’t have a place that felt like love. Serving people is what he did, and he told us about it because of how special those moments were.

If we wish to honor those who have served our country, let’s use the freedoms so valiantly, so fiercely, so bravely fought for to empower each of us to serve our communities. Let’s give our time, our energy, our love and kindness to accomplish unbelievable feats that may look mundane but will help and encourage and lighten the burdens of another.

Whether a community is one person: a friend, a loved one, a next door neighbor; or 25 people, 1,000 people, 5 million people — each life has purpose ordained by Jesus, each life is meaningful and precious.

Monetary donations are a must, yes. None of the brilliant nonprofits who are living side-by-side the exploited, the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the jobless, the folks who lost everything in a storm, the children who have no food, much less pre-sharpened #2 pencils — no non-profit can give without money, and I encourage you to help meet those needs. Charity Navigator can help each of us make smarter decisions when donating to charities.

But consider other possibilities. How can each of us use our talents to shine light in someone else’s darkness? Or, how can I use what I know to better someone else’s day? Yes, not every serving moment needs to be a grand affair, though we do need big, huge, above-and-beyond acts of service now and again.

Perhaps each of us simply determines this to be the day when we drop the pride and allow our hearts to swell three sizes, when we pay the price of freedom forward and continue sacrificing self for the well being of others.