This Monday November 12th we will recognize Veteran’s Day. As a nation, even when we cannot agree on whether or not we should participate in a war or when we should disengage, I think we can all agree that we owe a debt of gratitude to those brave soldiers who carry out their mission.

It is likely difficult for most of us who never served to imagine the horrors of war. We go about our day to day routine and perhaps never give a thought to the hardships the soldiers and their families endure. Over the course of the last few years I have had the opportunity to hear about some of these hardships first hand. I have also had the opportunity to pitch in.

Recently, I sat in the audience and listened to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta as he told of his action that resulted in his becoming the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions since the Vietnam War. While sitting there my mind drifted back to some of the young men I had worked with at the Shepherd Center SHARE Program.

I reflected on the story I was told of a visit to Stone Mountain. A group of soldiers had gone out to spend a day in the park. Each night the day ends with a laser show. The grand finale is an explosion of beautiful fireworks. This is a time where families look skyward with enjoyment. For these young men it was something else altogether. They circled together back to back and made their way out of the park as quickly as possible.

My mind carried me back to a meeting with a soldier in a very dimly lit room because the light bothered him. We had to conduct the meeting so that he could keep his eye on the door at all times. A signal that he still couldn’t let his guard down. Although confined to a wheelchair he displayed the determination to change his situation for the better.

When I returned to Atlanta from the FPA Experience annual conference in San Antonio, my first appointment was to meet with two new soldiers to the program at Shepherd. When I got there while exchanging pleasantries with staff they gave me an update on one of the soldiers. I had met Clarence more than a year earlier. Clarence, like many of the soldiers, had a lot of challenges to overcome. Cleaning up problems related to debt. (Some of the debt was self inflicted, some not.) We developed a plan for Clarence to clean up his credit, eliminate his debt and go to school so that he could pursue a career in forestry. Things are going well for Clarence. I’m told that he enrolled and stayed in school. He has found work here in the state in a position that he loves and is suited to his disposition. In some small way, I felt like a proud teacher that gets a note from a former student.

In every city, in every state across our great nation there are veterans all around us. Just as equally, there are opportunities for all of us to give back. It may be as simple as saying thank you. On the other hand, allow me to implore you to share your skills and passion to help those who fight for the very freedom that affords each of us the opportunity to pursue those skills and follow that passion.

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