Six years ago I was three stories up on scaffolding doing restoration woodworking on a Colonial era building called Hungars Parish Church. It was the most beautiful of September mornings; blue sky, dry balmy air with a slight breeze, and the sound of combines harvesting the golden soybean fields of rural Northhampton County, Virginia. At about 0930 a well worn Ford F-150 pickup truck pulled into the church's yard. This rural congregation had no parking lot....just a dirt and gravel entrance off of a countryroad unto freshly cut grass. An elderly farmed called out to us in a thick Tidewater accent (imagine a Canadian with a Southern twang) from a settling cloud of dust that we needed to come down and listen to the radio. At the time I was just a Marine Reservist, a weekend warrior who between monthly drills would grow back his goatee and work at my civilian job with a historic restoration company, Tidewater Restoration. I, like most of you, knew my life had been changed forever.
The only other day I remember this clearly was when JFK was assassinated in 1963. I was in Miss Rau's 5th grade class when a call came over the intercom to send three boys who were cub scouts down to the office. I was one of those boys. The principle, Mrs. Musselman, told us the president had been killed. At first I wondered if it was the president of the school board she was talking about? And if it was, why was everyone in the office crying? Then she told us to follow the janitor outside. He was going to instruct us in how to put the flag at half-staff. It was then we realized she was speaking of The President. That night I remember how, like 9/11, we were all glued to our televisions. And I recall the words of JFK, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country".
HBO and producer/actor James Gandolfini have created a documentary called Alive Day. You can go to their site and watch it for free. Please do. Freedom is not free. These are truly the folks who've risen to answer another generation's leader's challenge.