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One nice thing about living in Central Kentucky is a lingering sense of respect for elders, servicemen and women, people with badges in general, and neighbors. It’s not like the old days, not by a mile, but better than much of the world where respect is forced through power, not earned through service, the wisdom of years, or some other honorable reason.

MaryAnn and I met up with Old George down at the Huddle House, saddled up at the counter, working over a sizable plate of scrambled eggs and hash browns, slathered with ketchup and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper that, he assured me, he didn’t need. “I’m ninety now,” he chuckled.

George served from ‘45-49, leaving the frosty winters of Maine to spend four years in the USAF, stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, in weather so cold the memory of it made the old-timer shiver. George worked heavy equipment and built much of the military infrastructure in the Anchorage area, over those forty-eight months, which facilitated the US cause from the end of WWII through the Cold War and beyond.

The Bible definition of honor means to be respectful of others because we value them. I feel that way towards guys like George and told him so. I offered to buy his breakfast and he told me I didn’t have to, but he’d appreciate it. I said, “It’s our pleasure because if it weren’t for you and your mates, my family and I might not be here today.” He smiled and just said, “That’s true.”

Some of our highly valued hero’s aren’t as easy to spot as George in his dark blue WWII Veteran cap. In a way, I wish they were, so we could offer appreciation. At the same time, though, maybe it’s better that our heroes are anonymous, that way maybe we wouldn’t wait to cross paths with a national hero, before we expressed our appreciation, and would honor hero’s around us every day: the policeman, the foster parent, the math teacher, the AAU basketball coach, the couple married for twenty years—or fifty.

Honor is due to more people than we realize. It’s a tough world. For some kids getting through the 8th grade in the midst of the pressures of the city should be honored. Bible College sweethearts moving to Africa right after their wedding to serve children, build gardens, or teach English, should be honored. Just about everyone who gives more than they get, and serves more than they are served, should be honored. The selfless, humble, gentle, smiling, joyful, godly, young, the tender-hearted.

Today, though, let’s express our appreciation to the special class of hero’s like George, who put their lives on the line to preserve our freedom. Honor to whom honor is due.

In honor of Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, United States Marine Corps, WWII.