“Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.”
— Robert Edward Lee
In honor of Veterans Day, a heartfelt word of thanks to all of you who have served or are serving in America’s armed forces. Thank you for your willingness to train, to suffer hardship, to experience separation from your loved ones, and to put your life at risk for your countrymen.
My late father-in-law was a veteran of World War II, He was one of four brothers, all of whom were drafted away from their family farm in rural Tennessee.
After completing his training, he became a Technical Sergeant in the Army Air Corps — the precursor to the US Air Force. His responsibilities included making in-flight repairs and serving as a waist gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator bomber in the European theater, as part of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.
Like many men of his generation, he rarely talked about his experiences during the war, downplaying the danger and his role. “It was late in the war by the time I got over there,” he always said. Once when my grandmother asked if he had ever been to Germany, he gave a slight smile and said, “No, but I’ve been over it.”
Following the war, he returned to the farm for a while before enrolling in Tennessee Tech on the GI Bill. Following his graduation from college, he earned a doctorate in agronomy and genetics from the University of Wisconsin.
With his PhD, he took a position as a research agronomist with the US Department of Agriculture and was assigned to a research station at a large state university. He worked there the rest of his career, developing numerous soybean cultivars that fed millions and teaching graduate students from around the world.
As distinguished as his career was, he was also a devoted husband and father, raising my wife and her siblings in a godly household.
Over the past dozen years or so, we have seen popular sentiment regarding military service return to an appropriate level of respect and gratitude. This is as it should be.
At the same time, I hear and read some people saying that the US is no longer worthy of such devotion or service. I am not here to argue for or against — especially not with those who have served. On this occasion, however, I want to commend those who, like my father-in-law, saw their duty, did it and came home to build an exemplary life. This is still a county that produces such men. That is worth preserving.