As I am sure all of you know, this past Sunday was Veterans Day. In honor of that, we visited my dad, a Korean War veteran, at the beautiful National Cemetery in Canton. If you have never been to the cemetery, it is a trip worth taking.
The land for the cemetery was donated by Scott Hudgens, a World War II veteran who was a successful Atlanta land developer and philanthropist. The mountainous terrain was particularly gorgeous on Sunday — the fall foliage was in full display. The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in the background are always a spectacular site to behold.
It is so humbling to see all of those headstones — their neat rows lined up so evenly — and of course the ever-growing number of headstones every time we visit always gives me pause. The sacrifice so many have made for our freedom and the freedom of others gives me a lump in my throat and tears to my eyes.
My father rarely talked about his experience in the Air Force —even his time during the Korean War was not a topic he spoke of. I have found that so many veterans do not consider themselves heroes and don’t really like to talk about their military experience in terms of themselves. They are quick to credit their branch and its members before taking credit for their own actions or service.
I was reading about another hero, 95-year-old Hershel “Woody” Williams, a Marine who fought in World War II in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Because of his brave actions during the battle, Williams received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman in 1945.
Before joining the United States Marine Corps, Williams worked in his hometown in West Virginia, delivering Western Union telegrams to Gold Star families alerting the family that their son had given the ultimate sacrifice with his life. This experience moved Williams and stayed with him. After the military, Williams knew it was his calling to do more for Gold Star families to honor and remember their fallen children.
In 2012, Williams created the Hershel Woody William Medal of Honor Foundation. This amazing organization is all about honoring these heart-broken Gold Star families and helping them connect with other families. They have created monuments in all 50 states so that these families have a place to go and remember their fallen soldier and pay their respects. The foundation also provides scholarships for Gold Star children.
Williams is widely known in military circles and even has a Navy ship named after him.
When someone you love dies — no matter how old or the circumstances — of course you mourn the loss. Still, having a physical place to visit is important. I can only imagine if you lost your son or daughter while they were on active duty how important it would be to see their service honored in this way. I am thankful we have people in our country who not only see a need for something like this, but work tirelessly to see that it happens.
I saw Williams interviewed and his energy level and spirit were infectious. Can you imagine being almost 100 years old and to be traveling all over the country making sure Gold Star families have a way to continually honor their fallen loved ones? What an amazing man.
While Veterans Day is a great tribute to our veterans, my hope and prayer is that we honor these brave men and women 365 days a year. Keep our military and their family in your daily prayers — especially for those Gold Star Families. God Bless America!
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.