He was raised in a small southern town where his family operated a lumber company. Most thought this bright young man would follow others’ paths in his family and become a lumberman. However, God had another plan for Paul.
Paul left home to pursue higher education, then on to medical school, aspiring to become a surgeon. After his residency, Pearl Harbor was bombed and, like many, he traveled to war. He packed his medical bag and served his country throughout World War II onboard a hospital ship in the Pacific.
After the war ended, the doctor continued to serve America in the United States Public Health Service, where he retired as medical director by age 50.
Yet, his duty to the country was still not over. Once he ended his government service, his family thought Dr. Walker would begin a private practice in his beloved Seattle or back home in Tennessee. However, Paul thought otherwise. He again packed his medical bag and moved to the impoverished coal-mining region on the West Virginia — Kentucky border. There, he recruited other physicians to join him and establish a clinic.
For the remainder of his life, Dr. Paul Walker served those in dire need of his skills and aid.
Paul was a son, a father, and a healer. However, he was also a proud veteran who remained on duty until his last day.
There are a million stories, such as Paul’s. Men and women who are called to serve our country. They are touched by the hand of God to exemplify courage, commitment, and honor. Each one leaves the comfort of their home to save their homeland. They are the elite group of citizens who were chosen to lead, serve, and give all to keep America free.
These blessed souls, who lay their lives bare on the fields of battle, are from every corner of America. They are representative of every race, creed, and political persuasion. Yet they come together for one cause: defend their home and claim victory for their country’s fellow citizens.
He was called to serve in Vietnam. John was a lieutenant in the Navy assigned to a destroyer for over a year in those dark Asian waters. He was my brother — an engineer by education, but a soldier by heart. In the summer of 1965, our beloved grandfather died suddenly. When the Red Cross attempted to contact John, he could not be located. His ship, the USS Pritchett, was missing.
For the better part of a year, my mother received no information on her son. Where had the destroyer gone?
One afternoon, the doorbell rang, a Navy representative stood with an envelope to hand my parents. Tears welled in my mother’s eyes, fearing the worst. However, the letter was from the office of the President, Lyndon B. Johnson.
The letter explained that the destroyer and its crew were deployed on a secret mission for months. The President apologized to our family for causing suffering, but it was necessary to do so for the victory America hoped to ascertain. He thanked my parents not only for their son’s courage but for their sacrifice.
My brother was coming home.
Toward the end of Lt. John’s life, he would find comfort in the group who regularly assembled at his local VFW. Their shared stories of war and camaraderie were healing and transformative. On an April day in 1998, proud veterans assembled around their fallen comrade’s grave and wept for the loss of one of their own.
Stories of sacrifice and duty have swirled through our history since America began. None are more important or more significant than the other. However, within each narrative we find loyalty, unity, valor, honor, and a deep unadulterated concern for others.
Our service men and women come from every corner of our country to fight wars on foreign lands and train to shield America from our harshest onslaughts. They are the elite, the chosen, the heroes, and the shining stars of our country.
We should honor those who serve, not by our division but by our unity. Applauding the fact that we can still debate, still worship, still vote, and still rejoice in our freedom. Our wars should always be fought on foreign soil against those who intend to harm us, not on the soil these brave men and women battled to save.
The veterans, our soldiers, are the soul of America, the best of who we are — and we should learn from their stories, their devotion, and realize that these are the ones who bestow honor upon us all.
May all American hearts be filled with gratitude not only on Veterans Day but each day we live in the land of liberty.