Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Thank a Vet ...

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration. However, in giving thanks for what we have, we often forgot why we have it. Everything we have and hold dear from our lives to our freedoms we owe to the brave men and women who fought for this country. Many of them lie buried on distant shores and battlefields, but there are many thousands still serving valuable role in society and even more that feel the icy grip of death pulling their lives from them. Before they go, they must know that we appreciate what they've done for us. Without them, where would this country be? Would it yet exist? Thankfully, these questions need not be answered.

As you pray for your loved ones and friends this holiday season, say a prayer for the veterans among us. Furthermore, if you encounter one, please take the time to thank them for everything they've done.

I've come across a touching song, storyline, and photo essay via email that really puts this into perspective. The song and photo essay can be found here. The story behind the song is as follows:

The elderly parking lot attendant wasn't in a good mood!

Neither was Sam Bierstock. It was around 1 a.m., and Bierstock, a Delray Beach, Fla., eye doctor, business consultant, corporate speaker and musician, was bone tired after appearing at an event.

He pulled up in his car, and the parking attendant began to speak. "I took two bullets for this country and look what I'm doing," he said bitterly.

At first, Bierstock didn't know what to say to the World War II veteran. But he rolled down his window and told the man, "Really, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you."

Then the old soldier began to cry.

"That really got to me," Bierstock says.

Cut to today.

Bierstock, 58, and John Melnick, 54, of Pompano Beach - a member of Bierstock's band, Dr. Sam and the Managed Care Band - have written a song inspired by that old soldier in the airport parking lot. The mournful "Before You Go" does more than salute those who fought in WWII. It encourages people to go out of their way to thank the aging warriors before they die.

"If we had lost that particular war, our whole way of life would have been shot," says Bierstock, who plays harmonica. "The WWII soldiers are now dying at the rate of about 2,000 every day. I thought we needed to thank them."

The song is striking a chord. Within four days of Bierstock placing it on the Web, the song and accompanying photo essay have bounced around nine countries, producing tears and heartfelt thanks from veterans, their sons and daughters and grandchildren.

"It made me cry," wrote one veteran's son. Another sent an e-mail saying that only after his father consumed several glasses of wine would he discuss "the unspeakable horrors" he and other soldiers had witnessed in places such as Anzio, Iwo Jima, Bataan and Omaha Beach. "I can never thank them enough," the son wrote. "Thank you for thinking about them."

Bierstock and Melnick thought about shipping it off to a professional singer, maybe a Lee Greenwood type, but because time was running out for so many veterans, they decided it was best to release it quickly, for free, on the Web. They've sent the song to Sen. John McCain and others in Washington. Already they have been invited to perform it in Houston for a Veterans Day tribute - this after just a few days on the Web. They hope every veteran in America gets a chance to hear it.

God Bless the veterans that served this country in the wars of the 20th century. They offered their lives as collateral for ours, and many of them were sadly taken up on it. Nevertheless, those that survived are owed the utmost affection and gratitude we can offer them for their services.

To the veterans, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU! May you never be forgotten ...

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