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John Dougherty served his country in both World War I and in World War II.  He was a soldier who remembered vividly the two wars, the first as a teenager in the European Theater, the second as a middle aged Army officer in the Pacific Theater.  He volunteered for both conflicts. John and his wife, Ruth, were members of Yale Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma when Terry and I were members in the 1980’s.

On the Sunday before Veterans Day, John would rise from his pew, approach the front of the Sanctuary, lecturn side, in full uniform. Once there, he would pull a yellowed piece of paper from the breast pocket of his jacket, unfold it, narrow his eyes over the congregation assembled until all shuffling, whispering–even from the youth pew–ceased.  The gravel in his voice betrayed his advanced years, but there was no mistaking his sense of purpose.  After a few words regarding the solemnity of the occassion, he looked at the paper, then again at the crowd and recited:

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Years have passed but I still remember as I am sure others do as well.  Since John served in the two World Wars, men and women have chosen or been selected to serve in the United States Military Service.  Some served during the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and various other places within the USA and around the world.  As Jesus said, there will be wars and rumors of war…that never seems to go away.  Until the other side, we will need Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who step up to defend the Constitution of the United States and its citizens.

Today I am thankful to John Dougherty for his service not just to his county and mine, but to the congregants who had the opportunity to hear him recite “In Flanders’ Fields.”  I am thankful for the service of ALL the men and women who have served in the military of the United States of America, over 48 million since 1776, and honor their service and sacrifice.

The ruts in the path of freedom both as a citizen of the United States and as Christian runs with the blood of sacrifice.  Thankful doesn’t even seem to cover the emotions that image evokes.

Thank you, Veterans!  Thank you, God!

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