An Unforgettable Veterans Day Legacy

by | Nov 11, 2013 | Uncategorized


For nearly five years, we lived in a sleepy beach town on the way to nowhere. On our first weekend in our new house, a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic – 2,000 miles from our prior home in the desert – we were greeted by Isabel, our first experience with a hurricane.  I muttered under my breath to Jesus, “You surely didn’t bring us here to wipe us out,” about 12,000 times.

Thankfully, He didn’t.

However, we promptly had the opportunity to give away our newlywed couch and matching chair to strangers who lost everything to flood water. Thankful we chose a house built on the highest land in the community where flood insurance was expected.

We sat on boxes anticipating the delivery of our new couches for months. It turns out the freight company was waiting for a full truck headed in our direction before leaving the warehouse. And then some thinking person made a connection to the obvious.

Unless you’re planning to deliver furniture to people who live in the ocean, a full truck headed our way is either a miracle or impossible. Did I mention we lived on the way to nowhere?

When the couches were finally delivered and moved into place, we sat on them for the first time and they promptly busted apart underneath. We wondered if we’d eaten too much or if H and I were asleep, sharing the same nightmare. We soon discovered a flaw in architecture of the frame of the couch. It took over a year to settle what should have been an afterthought. We still use one of them on our back porch after H managed to repair it.

While this memory is one I’ll never forget, the second most vivid recollection of living in that town is four years of Veteran’s Days lined up.

Because I want my children to know that Veterans Day isn’t a free pass from school work. It’s the meaning of sacrifice, a celebration of someone willing to give up their life so we can live in the glorious, undeserved riches of freedom.

On Veterans Day during their childhood, we baked hundreds of cookies, dropping them into cellophane bags tied with ribbons attached with thank you notes. From the safety of our mini-van, my children hand delivered each bag into the hands of several veterans who attended the church where H was pastoring.

The look on their faces upon reception, it was the reason we did it more than once.

I can still picture Vic’s small blue eyes twinkling behind his glasses, gray hair slicked back and a sheepish smile on his face as we extended a cookie bag in his direction. You would’ve thought we were from Publisher’s Clearinghouse holding that oversize check.

Vic was a Major General who flew several presidents from the pilot seat on Marine One, starting with Lyndon B. Johnson. When I knew him, he lived in a modest, but beautiful home on the water in our neighborhood and his wife attended the bible studies I led.

As I think about saints like Vic who have gone on to glory, I am sobered by their success and accomplishment, but more than that, I’m inspired by their quiet humility. In a world elbowing its way to platform building in order be “Liked” by the masses, the legacy of selfless ambition is desirable and refreshing.

Are we able to lay down our lives for something bigger than ourselves, to pay the ultimate price and keep quiet about it?

Perhaps veterans are mimicking Jesus love for us without knowing it. Giving themselves away, paying the ultimate price for our freedom.

Today, as I sit on that “broken” couch on my back porch, I’m offering crumbs of thanks instead of cookies. May we never take someone’s “yes” to surrendering their life in the name of freedom for granted.

Their stories were written so we would remember what hope looks like. (Romans 15:4)

Minute six from this interview is a poignant illustration of  hope from the vantage point of a veteran: “Every dream, every hope I’ve had for the future is broken around me and I don’t’ know where to turn. It was in that place that God said, ‘Do you still trust me? Do you still believe that I have what’s best for you?’ It was in that moment that I understood hallelujah.   I may be more whole now than I’ve ever been in my life.” ~Marine Cpl., Tim Donley

Linking with Ann, Laura, and Michelle.

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  1. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Shelly, thank you so much for not forgetting our veterans. So many people just enjoy a day off for the Veterans Day Holiday and don’t think of the reason they’ve been given it. So many have sacrificed and also paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom. I worked for ten years as exec. dir. of the USO in St. Louis, and I can’t tell you what a difference our volunteers made in the lives of America’s military and their families. Most of the military were just teens, away from the first time, so scared and alone, never knowing what they’d face . Desert Storm was the most excruciating time of my service there, as we sent young men and women to the battlefront, and they not knowing if they would ever come home again. Seeing such tearful farewells was heartrending. May we never forget those who have given everything so that we may have everything.
    With tremendous gratitude to all our vets and their families.

    • Shelly Miller

      I can only imagine how encouraging you were to those with whom you interacted Lynn, during your ten years with the USO. What a great experience.

  2. bluecottonmemory

    My FIL and my step-father served – and the world is much emptier without men sch as them. When they touch our lives, they teach us through actions how to live sacrifice:) Me and my boys are the better for them. Thank you for your heart and your tribute!

    • Shelly Miller

      I love that this day is focused on the sacrifices and attributes of the men who fought for our freedom. It gives perspective doesn’t it?

  3. Mary Bonner

    Hi Shelly, I read this early this morning, but didn’t take the time to comment. I love it and thank you for remembering our veterans. My dad is 91, he will turn 92 in February and spent 30 years in the military.

    What a gifted writer you are! By the way, I linked to this post in what I posted today.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you for your kindness Mary in sharing this and how blessed are you, to have your Dad still with you.

  4. Beth Steffaniak

    I get so caught up in my own world and let busyness get in the way of just thinking of others, doing kind acts that speak volumes–especially to the veterans who sacrificed so much for all of us! Thanks for this reminder!

    • Shelly Miller

      I do too Beth, I get too caught up in my own world more than I care to admit but I’m thankful for the memories we have of giving ourselves away, even for a few hours.

  5. Sandra Heska King

    Yesterday our pastor called all the veterans to the front of the church. There were a lot of them. He handed them the microphone to be passed down the row (the mic was corded, and it wasn’t long enough, so they had to move the line line down instead) and asked them to share their name, years of service, branch, duty. Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Marines, National Guard. From WWII to Viet Nam. Medics and sailors and helicopter pilots. I wept. I wasn’t the only one.

    Keep that couch.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh wow Sandy, what a moving morning for you. Love that.

  6. Lisa notes...

    What a beautiful legacy you’re leaving your kids, to know that Veterans’ Day isn’t a free pass to a day off. Love this, Shelly. How many lives you have touched!

    • Shelly Miller

      We haven’t done it since moving away from that town Lisa, but I recounted the memories with my kids today. It was fun hearing their perspective. Couldn’t believe how much they remembered.

  7. Nancy Franson

    Thank you for this, Shelly. I to called my favorite veteran today–my adopted dad–to thank him for his service. When I was home schooling my kids, I asked if we could come over so he could tell us his stories. His reaction was very much like the one you described above–you’d have thought he’d won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize. Those stories matter so much, and taking time to listen to them and honor them–it means so much to these brave men and women who served.

    • Shelly Miller

      There are so many stories I want to write about how others made an impact, I wish I had more time to do it.

  8. Chrysti Hedding

    This is so good. Thank you for sharing. After living in the UK for awhile, Remembrance Day is a pretty big deal here, bigger than I remember Veterans Day being in the US. So it’s on the front of my mind to show appreciation to those who serve in the military. What a great way to honour veterans that you’re doing. Your kids will never forget it!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m jealous Chrysti, living in the UK is on my bucket list. Thanks so much for stopping by, its lovely to meet you.

  9. Holly Solomon Barrett

    Thank you for teaching your children the true value of Veterans Day and the sacrifices made by families across this nation. My military family appreciates it very much!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Holly, I appreciate your kindness. I hope you’ve celebrated well today.

  10. Laura Boggess

    Oh, Shelly, this is the sweetest of gifts. Yesterday, I preached at a little church to all of ten people. Do you know that 2/10 were veterans? And one of them used to be a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was my honor to shake both of those men’s hands.

    I’m sitting here tonight thinking about another storm you told me about that happened on a day you took a new direction in your life. God really has stretched you, hasn’t He? That’s why you are the wonderful Shelly we love so much 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      You are too kind Laura, thank you. H has preached at some of those sweet small churches and they’ve held some fond memories, sometimes the most humorous too. Yes, I’ve had some stretching for sure, sometimes I feel like I’m going to break but He won’t let me.

  11. Jillie

    This was beautiful, Shelly. Here in Canada, we have ‘Remembrance Day’. It is not a holiday for us and in a way I’m glad. Most would simply see it as a day off…not what is intended. My husband takes a day of his holidays for it. He watches everything war- related on television. He attends a service at the cenotaph. He cries for the lives lost or maimed. It angers him that many youth today aren’t being taught what this day means.
    When I was a girl, my Dad would insist that we stay home from school, watch the service broadcast live from Ottawa, our nation’s Capital, and that we stand and observe two minutes of silence at that 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I’m so glad he did. It really is up to us, as parents, to teach our young the significance of this day. I’m never more proud to be Canadian than on Remembrance Day, donning the poppy.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m hearing a lot about Remembrance Day for the first time Jillie. Your husband’s response to it is quite touching. Love those important legacies we leave behind for our family members.

  12. Nancy Ruegg

    Shelly, you have such a sweet, servant’s heart! I love the idea of baking cookies for veterans of your church. What a thoughtful way to honor them. Do you mind if I use your idea? I would love to spearhead such a project in my church for next year.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think that sounds just perfect Nancy, of course I don’t mind.

      • Nancy Ruegg

        I didn’t think you would! Thank you!

  13. David Rupert

    I was able to help honor a Medal of honor winner at a ceremony I put together. It was powerful to see such humility from this man.

    There is a model of the military man or woman and the person of faith. They put it all on the line for some greater good, for a higher purpose. Alas, most Christians falter before their call.

    • Shelly Miller

      What an honor . . . for both of you. Thanks for sharing the link.

  14. Beth

    Oh sweet friend. THANK YOU for this beautiful message. This overly emotional girl is so touched. These are messages that need to be shared. {Hugs}

    • Shelly Miller

      I was thinking about you yesterday Beth. Thanks for your kindness in sharing.

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