The Importance of Honoring Our Veterans


By Joanna Grey Talbot

Sadly, for many people Veterans Day is just another day off work but for me it will always have a deeper meaning. My family history is filled with veterans and the loved ones at home who supported them from my World War II veteran grandfathers to my former Marine father to my brother who is currently active duty military.

Needless to say, my family considers themselves very patriotic. My childhood home always had an American flag flying proudly from the front porch. We were taught at a young age to stand quietly and put our right hand over our heart whenever the national anthem was played. Our parents instilled in us a strong love of country and respect for veterans.

Patriotism means many things to many people but to me it means honoring those who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect me, my family, and our freedoms. No matter your politics, religion, or background, we as Americans cherish and hold fiercely to the freedoms that the Constitution grants us, therefore, we should do everything that we can to support and respect those who defend those freedoms. In today’s world things can change in an instant so every day those men and women put their lives on the line for us. Many of them may brush off that statement and say they are “just doing their job,” but it does not make it any less honorable.

Much of this was put into perspective for me when my father told me that every time he hears the National Anthem played he repeats three names in his mind. He does this because he never wants to forget them or take for granted what they did in giving their all for our country in the defense of our freedoms. One of those names is Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Elliott.

I will never have the honor of meeting him because he gave his all for on the battlefields of Vietnam. Yet, he has impacted my life because he changed the life of my father. In a letter to the editor of The Philadelphia Daily News on the occasion of the dedication of the Philadelphia Vietnam Memorial in 1987, my father explained why:

“In February, 1965, I was an eighteen-year-old college dropout in search of direction. From Gunnery Sergeant Elliott I gained the beginnings of the strength of character, purposeful direction and never say quit attitude which has enabled me to achieve meaningful success thus far in my life. Those attributes will remain with me until I join Gunnery Sergeant Elliott. Their seeds were sown by him during many hours of drill, forced marches, physical training and instruction in the profession of being a Marine. I served as a commissioned Officer in the Marine Corps from 1973 to 1984 and never served a day that the lessons of character and perseverance taught me by Gunnery Sergeant Elliott did not affect how I led my Marines.

Gunnery Sergeant Elliott was a black Philadelphian and I am a white Georgian. But those facts of life were never and will never be important. He wanted me, as well as each member of our platoon, to be a proud and thoroughly capable Marine. He showed me qualities that knew no color. Honor, integrity, pride, strength of character and dignity are rarely found embodied in one man. However, in Gunnery Sergeant Elliott I felt them resident in large measure.

I am honored to have my first-born son named in his memory. I am honored to have known him and served with him. Philadelphians and all Americans can be honored that he was, and is, ours. Please ensure that his name is properly and respectfully inscribed on the (Philadelphia) memorial. I pray that this letter will help ensure his memory will live on.”


Veterans like Gunnery Sergeant Elliott had an opportunity that so few of us will ever have. They were a part of something that was so much bigger than themselves. Putting aside such everyday freedoms that we civilians take for granted, our veterans went wherever they were sent and sacrificed precious time with their families in order to ensure the safety and well-being of all Americans. Whether you realize it or not, veterans impact our lives each and every day.

No matter what hills and valleys our country may go through my sincerest hope is that one thing we can always agree on is the importance of our active duty military and veterans. Without them we might not be here today. Our country will always be filled with different perspectives, beliefs, backgrounds, and cultures, but we will always be Americans. Join with me this Veterans Day as we remember, honor, and thank those who have and continue to protect our freedoms.

Joanna is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via pexels}

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Honoring Our Veterans

  1. sarahshealthylifeblog says:

    I loved this! I almost cried! I agree with you 100% but people will truly never understand how our soldiers impact our lives and theirs. I know that I didn’t until my husband joined the Army. He spent over a year in Afghanistan. Thank you to you and your family for all that you have done for us!


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