Printed on: November 12, 2013

A chance to say thanks

Several years ago, I read the book "Flags of our Fathers" by James Bradley. It was a story of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima. Sometime later, the movie version came out.

I went alone to see the movie. The theater was packed! Many

parents had brought their children. As the presentation started, it soon became clear that we were not there to be entertained. Those present saw in a small way the carnage and horror of war.

The huge price paid by young men in the prime of their lives was sobering, in that battle and countless battles like it on such distant shores --in the jungles of Korea and Vietnam to the deserts of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the past decade, our military personnel have served overseas in nearly 150 countries. Hundreds of thousands have been deployed in the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan. With the end of the draft, our military has been an all-voluntary service. We should applaud our young people for their desire to serve. They become part of the great tradition that is the

United States military. We owe a debt of gratitude as well as our heartfelt thanks to those men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States over the past 200-plus years.

Let us not forget the contributions of our own Idaho Air National Guard and Army National Guard. Many of us know a member of the 116th Cavalry

Brigade Combat Team. They have had multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have distinguished themselves with valor and have brought honor to Idaho.

I attended one of their homecomings and will never forget the emotional reaction. As the wheels touched down on the tarmac, the crowd went wild -- family and friends excited for the return of their American heroes.

The song by Lee Greenwood sums up how I feel about our great country. "I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free, and I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me. And I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S.A."

On a personal note, whenever the national anthem is played or the flag passes by, I always get a lump in my throat. I have four uncles who served in World War II. Never would they talk about what happened there. My father told me that they had seen and experienced too many unimaginable things.

To our veterans, I want to thank you for your personal sacrifice and the toll it has taken. For the lives of your friends and buddies who also fought and gave. To the families of those who lost sons and daughters, those that gave "The last full measure of devotion," thank you.

Lewis lives and works in Idaho Falls. He is married with two children. You can reach him at