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American Legion meet recognizes ‘real stars’

Theirs was a small gathering, with only about 10 esteemedveterans and their loved ones meeting to pray, pledge and dinetogether. There was no moving music, no symbolic gestures, no grandplans.

But with willing ears and a powerful guest speaker, the quietVeterans Day meeting of Brookhaven’s John Edwards Post 12 of theAmerican Legion captured the essence of the hallowed occasion.

“In a celebrity-obsessed culture where shows like ‘Dancing withthe Stars’ and ‘American Idol’ generate large followings, it isimportant to remember just who the real stars of America are,” saidMendenhall’s Ron Roberts, the American Legion’s state judgeadvocate.

Roberts quoted portions of “The Real Stars,” a patrioticeditorial penned by Ben Stein in 2004, which identifies the realstars as U.S. soldiers in Iraq who died while attempting to disarma roadside bomb and jumping on a piece of unexploded ordnance tosave a little girl. Another real star was Georgia’s Michael Buras,a senior airman with the Air Force’s 99th Civil Engineer Squadron’sordnance disposal team who died in September in an explosion. Hewas 23.

“Veterans Day is a time to honor not just (those) heroes, butall of the outstanding men and women who have served in ournation’s armed forces since our founding fathers 234 years ago,”Robert said. “We must be there to support not just the families ofthe fallen, but also the loved ones of those still deployed andthose who return permanently changed by the wounds of war.”

True appreciation for veterans is expressed through deeds,Roberts said. He encouraged business owners to give extraconsideration to veterans who seek employment, supported donatingto veterans’ groups like American Legion and others and advocatedvoters to remind their elected representatives to maintainveterans’ programs and services.

“And don’t underestimate the power of simply saying, ‘Thankyou,'” he said.

Roberts closed his speech with a powerful quote on the worth ofveterans from philosopher John Stuart Mill:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. Thedecayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling whichthinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who hasnothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is moreimportant than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature andhas no chance of being free unless made and kept so by theexertions of better men than himself.”

According to Roberts’ statistics, there are 23 million veteransin America, with around 665,000 having deployed to eitherAfghanistan or Iraq in the War on Terror. Half of those havedeployed twice in the conflict, and an estimated 40,000 have beenwounded in the fight.

Brookhaven’s Col. Keith Reeves, the Post 12 commander, saidMississippi has lost 69 servicemen in the War on Terror since itbegan in 2001. He asked for prayers for those who have sacrificedand those who will in the days to come.

“Fortunately, none from Lincoln County, but if you look throughthis list, it’s all around,” he said. “We’ll have peoplecontinually deployed until these wars are brought to an end, and wecan expect more deaths from the state of Mississippi.”