When dawn breaks Monday morning, Nov. 11, I hope you will stop to give thanks and to honor America’s veterans of our armed forces.

Were it not for the veterans, both men and women of our military services, we would not be enjoying the freedoms we have today.

Our warriors have provided us with a legacy unmatched in battle while responding to every conflict in which we have been engaged, beginning at Lexington and continuing today in the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Syria.

As soldiers they have witnessed things no man or woman should have to see; from the loss of friends to critical injuries that tried to squeeze the life out of torn bodies; young and old each have been robbed of their innocence.

They have known filth, cold, hunger, loneliness and often experienced pain beyond what most men know.

Many have paid the ultimate price, giving their lives for this country while others returned home with demons that haunt them day and night.

Unlike many armies, our veterans represent a cross section of America.

One veteran, Leigh Ann Hester, received a duty assignment in Iraq. She was assigned to a police unit providing security for convoys.

Hester was awarded a Silver Star for combat actions in Iraq. She became the first woman in American military history to win a Silver Star in Afghanistan and the second since World War II. The Silver Star is America’s third highest award for valor during combat.

Hester’s vehicle was hit by a RPG (rocket propelled grenade). Exiting the vehicle with her rifle and following her squad leader, they ran to a position where they began to return fire allowing other members of the squad, some of them seriously injured, to move to safety. All team members survived the attack.

Specialist Monica Brown, a trained medic, is another one of our veterans.

Brown was assigned to a combat patrol in March of 2008 when the patrol’s vehicles were ambushed in Afghanistan.

After exiting her vehicle, she saw a number of wounded soldiers attempting to take cover in a ditch. Without hesitation she grabbed her medical equipment and ran to their location, shielding their bodies and immediately began treating their wounds while under small arms and mortar fire.

Brown readied the two worst casualties for a helicopter extraction and continued to treat her other fellow soldiers. Following the attack, Brown was promoted and awarded a Silver Star for actions under fire that day.

Ivica Jerak, a native of Yugoslavia, immigrated to America in 1985 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1988 as a medic. After several years in the regular army, Jerak volunteered for Special Forces training in which he excelled. Following his graduation from Special Forces training, he was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group.

Earning his Green Beret was not enough and he then volunteered for Delta team selection. As a Delta team operator he served in Kosovo, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. He died in Iraq at the age of 42 when his vehicle hit an anti-tank mine during combat operations.

Jerak earned 47 medals during his service time which included four Bronze Stars, one with Valor, and three purple hearts. He had graduated from the best schools the Army has to offer, including Jump School, Special Forces Qualification Course, Special Forces medical training, Delta Operator Training and he was a qualified HALO instructor (high altitude –low opening parachute jumper).

At the time of his death, Jerak had spent a total of 42 months in combat operations.

We live in a free country because of military service personnel like those above who are willing to put their lives on the line and are willing to die for this country.

Thank goodness we have women and men willing to take up arms to fight those that would bring harm and destruction to our country.

Let us be thankful the spirit of the American soldier has always been resolute in his and her task. They have fought and continue to fight the good fight.

Remember: “A veteran is someone who at some point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.” (Author unknown).

Jimmy Terrell is retired from a career in law enforcement and is a Winder city councilman. He can be reached at ejterrell65@gmail.com.

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