As you read this on Memorial Day weekend, there is a soldier of the Army’s Old Guard walking with expert precision near a white sarcophagus tomb on a hilltop overlooking Washington, D.C. Tomb Sentinels, as they are called, guard the remains of unknown soldiers from various conflicts our nation has fought in. Inscribed on the tomb are the words, "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." Each Sentinel during their hour-long watch, marches 21 steps past the tomb, turns, then takes another 21 steps and repeats the process until properly relieved. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed such as a 21-gun salute. If you ever have the chance to see the changing of the guard at the tomb it is a stirring, reverent event. It signifies the importance of honoring those who have fought and died for our nation as we do every Memorial Day.
Moving back to the Upstate after more than 10 years of active duty in the Army, I found the area rich in patriotism and support of our military. Yet few in the area have personal connections to those that had fought and died in our nation’s wars. Whenever those I met found out about my background, they would thank me for my service and many would say they would love to help those that have served or are serving but did not know how. If you’re such a person, there are many ways to give back to those that have worn the nation’s uniform and those that have even died while wearing it.
First and foremost, never forget. We must remind ourselves that freedom comes at a cost and we must never forget those that have fought and fallen to preserve the freedoms of our great nation. Tell your kids and grandkids of such men and women. Partake in Memorial Day events that point to the bravery of past warriors and tell the stories of their deeds. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates since the inception of the country that over 41 million have given their lives in our nation’s wars with over 10,000 occurring during the recent war on terror. Let us always remember.
Another way is to volunteer for organizations that assist servicemembers still serving or for those that have lost a loved one in the military. In Greenville County alone, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 30,000 veterans living among us along with dozens of families that have lost a loved one while in service. Organizations such as Gold Star Mothers, Blue Star Mothers and Upstate Warrior Solution welcome volunteers to help with their mission of giving back to our warriors and their families in the area.
And finally, let’s make South Carolina the friendliest state for veterans and their families. This initiative is something I plan to focus on if elected to the State House. The skills, values, ingenuity and work ethic of service members would be well served as an economic driver for our state. Many states do not tax military retirement and provide civilian accreditation for military job experience. We as a state should take a hard look at doing the same thing. Service members research which states are best for their skills and benefits when leaving the service. We may be missing out on veterans moving here that could fill crucial j! ob shortages throughout the state.
So, while countless men and women are holding the line in harm’s way this weekend and countless others have sacrificed it all for our country, celebrate this Memorial Day not with a melancholy mood but with a jubilant satisfaction. Knowing that America produces such souls that would put themselves in danger and sacrifice it all to maintain our freedoms. Saying "Thank you for your service" is always a nice gesture but giving back goes a long way as well.
Bobby Cox is Republican candidate for S.C. State House District 21. He is a Citadel graduate and a former Army Ranger with four combat deployments. He currently lives in Greer with his wife Joscelyn and two children.
Bobby Cox, Guest columnist.
The Greenville News