Veterans share stories of sacrifice, commitment
The words came out of Jack Horsefield's mouth instinctively and on cue as The Rev. Stephen Vipperman spoke of sacrifice and honor during Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center's Veterans Day observance. While simple in spelling, these two words carried tremendous weight for the retired Marine and Korean War veteran.
"Ooh rah" for those that are here, "Ooh rah" for those that are not.
"I've got to first of all thank God for looking over me in my time of crisis," said Horsefield, 78. "I look at it as a privilege and a pleasure and I just bless God for being here today."
Veterans from every American conflict of the last half century attended Monday's observance, all with their own story of honor and sacrifice. Vipperman, a Thomasville native and Navy SEAL, served as a guest speaker, sharing his thoughts on what commitment to country means and what prices have so dearly been paid for freedom. Prices that sometimes are overlooked.
"Stop and reflect on the liberties purchased by our veterans and how you're using them," said Vipperman. "What kind of life do you live? This is a great way to stop and remember the liberties that we often take for granted. Some of our veterans paid the ultimate sacrifice for our liberties and we owe them a spectacular debt of gratitude."
Guest speaker Army Cpl. Marvin Smith survived the Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest conflicts not only of World War II but in American history. The soft-spoken Smith recalled the bitter Belgium cold in the winter of 1944, and the adversity Allied soldiers faced in a battle that claimed 19,000 Americans over six long weeks.
"I was glad to get the chance to do this," Smith said. "There were a lot of things I wanted to say but I couldn't get it all in. I feel honored to be in this group and I'm glad I went through went what I did and that the good Lord was with me. I'm thankful for the opportunity to do this."
Veterans from conflicts long ago sat side by side with those currently serving. Joel Pierce is an active member of the N.C. National Guard and said Monday's observance gave citizens a chance to reflect on the sacrifices others have made in the name of freedom.
"This is an extremely patriotic town," said Pierce. "It warms your heart to see all the people come out and support the veterans. I think that's the key. When you look at some of the heroes here in town, it's like you're living among heroes and you don't even know it. I think sometimes we look for heroes in other places when they're right here with us all the time."
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.