Collins: A Memorial Day to remember

Published 12:46 pm Thursday, June 1, 2017

Memorial Day has always been a favorite holiday of mine, right up there with Independence Day and Veterans Day.

Anyone who’s been out with me knows I’ll not miss an opportunity to thank a veteran for his or her service. If I see someone with a hat that shows they have served our country, I will thank them and offer them my hand.

I spent this holiday at Cherokee Lake in Tennessee, where my parents now live. I drove my daughter, niece and nephew over to the lake to throw some rocks or whatever fun they wanted to have on such a beautiful day. When we pulled up next to the water, we found a gentleman sitting in a chair with a lady and a young boy. They too were enjoying the day next to the water.

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I said hello and introduced myself. After talking about the holiday weekend, the gentleman told me he was 93 years old and a veteran of  World War II. He described the many countries he had visited while fighting for our country as well as some of the battles he had fought while under the command of General Patton.

Soon, I found myself sitting on the ground in front of him listening to him live out some stories of a time long ago. It wasn’t long before I noticed my daughter, niece and nephew sitting next to me, drawn to the stories as well.

He talked about one mission in which he was walking in water up to his neck with his complete complement of gear on his back. He said none of the men knew what was in front of them or, especially, underneath them.

All they knew is they were doing it because General Patton told them to do so.

As he said, if General Patton had 200 men and it was going to take 199 lives to capture a particular hill, that particular hill was going to be taken.

The men didn’t like him, but they would do anything for him.

He showed us a few scars on his face and ears and let us in a little on how they occurred. He of course knew his audience at the time consisted of a 10, 9 and 4 year old so he managed to dial down many of the details.

I was amazed at how these young children enjoyed his descriptions and showed so much respect to this man who was slowly becoming a hero to them.

Near the end of our time with this outstanding and brave gentleman, he began to share some Bible verses with the kids, all of which told how God loved children. They asked him questions — those of which would be expected to come from a child, but either way, he truly enjoyed interacting with them on a military, historical and especially a Biblical perspective.

I thanked him genuinely for his service and shook his hand in true gratitude. I’m used to veterans thanking me for showing my respect, but this man said a few things I hadn’t been told before.

He was so sincere in thanking me, saying he was the lucky one for getting to sit and talk to me and the kids. It was for these things that he fought so bravely for, allowing us all to have the opportunity to sit and talk by a beautiful lake in the middle of the mountains.

More than anything, I loved his perspective on life.

On the short drive back to my parents’ house, I took some time to explain to the kids about the importance of Memorial Day and how we should always remember the brave men and women who fought valiantly for our freedom and try not to ever take this for granted.

My daughter has seen me talking to veterans quite often, thanking them for keeping our country safe. I’m hoping that when she witnesses it again, it will bring back to mind what a wonderful day we had.

As Americans, we will all continue to have our disagreements on various issues. However, having the freedom to discuss these disagreements with the goal of finding common ground continues to be a wonderful thing.

I urge each of you to take a moment to thank a veteran every chance you get. It doesn’t matter if they served in a war from years ago or are just now completing basic training.

They have, they do and they will keep you and me safe each and every day. I truly thank each of you.

As George W. Bush said, “Their sacrifice was great, but not in vain. All Americans and every free nation on earth can trace their liberty to the white markers of places like Arlington National Cemetery. And may God keep us forever grateful.”

Will Collins is a political enthusiast and a lifelong resident of Kentucky. He has called Winchester home for nearly 20 years. He can be reached at