Enduring Gratitude helps those who fought for us

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 08:01 PM

What have you done lately for the men who protect your freedom?

We have now had a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a dozen years. During this time, more than 6,700 American servicemen have lost their lives. While this is a tragedy, it is only a part of the story, there have been over 50,000 wounded. According to the US Department of Defense, since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, about 2.5 million members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and related Reserve and National Guard units have been deployed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Every one of them volunteered for a job most of us would not want to do, and every one of them left friends and loved ones at home so they could serve their country.
This has been a long and protracted conflict with many veterans doing more than one deployment. In fact, as of last year, nearly 37,000 Americans had been deployed more than five times, among them 10,000 members of guard or Reserve units. Records also show that 400,000 service members have done three or more deployments.
Just a few days ago, most of us celebrated Christmas with the ones we loved. We slept in comfortable beds, stayed warm, and feasted in celebration of the birth of Christ. During that time, few of us were thinking of the men and women who have committed their lives to preserve our freedom. During your Christmas Holiday, did it occur to you that thousands of young Americans were spending their holiday apart from their families and friends so you could enjoy freedom and affluence, and let’s face it; even the poorest Americans are wealthy compared to most of the world. This freedom has come at a price, however. Over 432,000 have died in combat defending the United States.
While no war is without horrors, our current conflicts have been devastatingly difficult for our forces to deal with. The stress of modern desert warfare is never ending, threats exist as long as soldiers are in country, and they constantly witness terrible things every day. In my travels as a writer, I attend functions where these brave young people participate. This year, at the AR 15.com Three Gun Championship, I witnessed a young man who had lost both legs and one arm in Afghanistan. He used a standard chair, pushing the wheels with his good arm and his artificial arm. He shot every event and seemed to ignore the tough hand he’d drawn as a reward for deciding to serve his country. For every young man like that, there are a dozen of his friends and comrades who witnessed his injuries and will live with seeing it happen for the rest of their lives. Even those who are lucky enough to not be exposed to such horrors, spend time in a hostile place, away from their loved ones. There is no estimable value for the sacrifice these have made and every single veteran who served, sacrificed for our freedom, whether he served in combat or not. Most of us, as normal citizens, are blissfully unaware of this level of sacrifice.
A few years ago, several locals set up a non-profit named Enduring Gratitude. They are a small organization that plays only a tiny part in trying to show these American heroes some gratitude for what they’ve done for us. There are no paid staff involved with Enduring Gratitude. Every dollar donated goes to the events hosted for veterans. The largest event Enduring Gratitude does is our annual Pheasant Tower Hunt at Beaver Pond Sporting Club. This year will be the fourth such event, and promises to be the largest ever.
Last year, Enduring Gratitude hosted over 60 veterans at the Beaver Pond event. Veterans arrived to coffee and donuts, registered and received a shirt and hat, were squadded into groups, and proceeded to shoot clay targets, enjoy a pig picking and participate in a pheasant hunt, where volunteers handled the retrievers, kept them in shells, picked up the birds and took them back to the shed for cleaning and packaging. At the end of the day, there were awards for shooting and the guys went home with their birds in a donated cooler, ready to take home to their families. This year, the target is to honor 72 veterans.
Mana Crop Protection is title sponsor for the event again this year, and the High Point Area Builders Association are Tower sponsors, but other event level sponsorships are available for groups, corporations, and individuals. When compared to the sacrifices our veterans have made, for the sacrifices they have witnessed, it is a pitifully small gesture, but it is something. I think if all of us really considered the value of our freedom and affluence in the world a properly assigned credit to those responsible, there would be a lot more people involved with Enduring Gratitude and similar organizations.
For more information and to contribute or get involved, go to: enduringgratitude.org
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several N.C. newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com or offtheporchmedia.com