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Thanks for the memories

Published 10:06am Thursday, May 30, 2013

By Jonathan Yarboro
Greetings from the corner of Bridge and Bridge! Happy belated Memorial Day to all! I do hope the holiday weekend was a relaxing time for one and all.
I received word of Jack DeVenney’s death as I was gathering my thoughts for this column. Ironically, Jack’s face is one that has popped into my mind when I think about Memorial Day since I met him seven years ago. One of Jack’s greatest gifts to our community was his reminder of the importance of Memorial Day celebrations.
Jack embodied the very character traits Memorial Day is supposed to give rise to in all of us. For years, Jack and Shirley have mentored our young people through their business, A Touch of Class. Their students were not customers; they were the next generation.
Veterans understand the significance of the next generation in meaningful ways. I have never met a veteran who did not express great concern for others, especially young people. I think it has a lot to do with an understanding of service and sacrifice that is easily forgotten by some of us.
I never served in the military. When I turned 18, I had to register with Selective Service, but I have never had to worry about being drafted. I have never been faced with the option of kill or be killed, nor have I ever had to fight physically in any way to protect the freedoms I enjoy as an American citizen.
I am blessed because I have been in the company of others who have served in the military my entire life. I have shared many conversations with veterans since I was a child. I have always been fascinated with stories of military service.
Sometimes those stories are of the glory days variety. Former soldiers tell endless tales of the colorful camaraderie that accompanies military service. These stories underline the strength of the relationships formed in military service.
Other times these stories are much less glamorous. Soldiers tell of the harsh realities of combat. The real challenge of living faith often comes to the surface in unavoidable ways.
In either case, one of the underlying themes of stories from veterans is service. I have been positively influenced since early childhood to serve others because of the witness shared to me by veterans. I have never met a veteran who did not take great pride in the things they did in service to our country that had nothing to do with waging war.
There are times when combat is unavoidable, but there are many other times when situations call for a strong, peaceful, disciplined presence. The veterans I know and have known embody those characteristics. Jack DeVenney certainly did.
One of Jack’s favorite greetings was “The sun is up, the birds are singing, and my windshield is dirty.” That saying explains Jack well, I think. Jack’s witness was always upbeat, but it was real, with a touch of humor thrown in for good measure.
This Memorial Day, our whole nation has the opportunity to remember those who have served our country, especially those who lost their lives doing so. We have the opportunity to give thanks for the sacrifice, the lessons learned and the freedoms protected. We remember our veterans and say thank you. We are all stronger and wiser as a result. Think about it.

The Rev. Jonathan Yarboro is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka.

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