‘Ret. U.S. Army Col. Manley James said the service and sacrifice of military veterans and their families is appreciated and should never be forgotten. He said it was actually that service and sacrifice which has helped support the pillars of American democracy, including freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

The service and sacrifice of military veterans and their families is appreciated and should never be forgotten, retired U.S. Army Col. Manley James said Friday.

Their service and sacrifice has helped support the pillars of American democracy, including freedom and the pursuit of happiness, he said.

“Your sacrifice has kept our community and its citizens safe and free,” James said.

James took time to expound on the importance of veterans, patriotism and serving a common good as the featured speaker for a Veterans Day observance held at the VFW Post 8166 in Orangeburg.

He said the families who have endured service members missing the births of children, graduations, birthdays and other milestone events also deserve recognition.

“Being in the military requires an immeasurable level of sacrifice. … Freedom is not free,” James said.

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James served more than 34 years in the military, including 25 years in the North Carolina National Guard. He and his wife, Charlene, are the parents of five children.

James said one of his sons is on active duty, while another son will graduate from West Point in May. He said he knows what it is like to pray for their safe return.

“So many of you know what I’m talking about,” James said.

Living in a “volatile world” makes military service even more dangerous, including with the unpredictability of North Korea, the reemergence of Russia, the rise of China and terrorism.

Manley said it is not all bad, though, because the preservation of peace must remain the cornerstone of the U.S. military and its service members.

He said the military must produce leaders with the critical thinking skills needed to move it forward in the 21st century.

Also, military members must not shy away from asking for help when they need it, he said.

“I’m one of them. Put pride in your pocket. If you’re struggling, reach out and get help,” Manley said.

He said the pursuit of liberty and justice is still worthwhile.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him,” he said, quoting English writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton.

Manley said veterans fulfilled their call to action and were dedicated to their duty to help preserve the American way of life.

While the nation sometimes falters in making sure liberty and the pursuit of happiness is extended to all, “I hope we will continue to rise to the challenge,” he said.

Veteran Hugh Taylor of American Legion Post 4 said he enjoyed Manley’s message.

“That was inspiring. I feel better,” Taylor said.

U.S. Army veteran George Watson, a member of the VFW Post 8166, said he also found the speaker’s message enlightening.

“I thought the speaker was very interesting. Col. Manley was to the point. He served in the Guard. I spent some time in the Guard, too. … We did what we had to do because of the reason. I’m an old soldier, but I know the reason for the cause,” Watson said.

He said he knows what making sacrifices is about.

“I know that in my time being in the military, there was a lot of my guys who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I was one of the ones that sometimes took their body home. I understand how family members feel. Sometimes I go through the same thing. I don’t like to hear ‘Taps.’ My mind goes back,” Watson said.

He said the speaker gave veterans and everyone else some food for thought.

“He put something out there today that makes all of us think. We are all fighting for the same cause no matter what,” Watson said.

During the ceremony, the Orangeburg-based Vets Helping Vets military group recognized POWs and MIAs with a special recognition. Group members covered an empty chair to represent the thousands who are still unaccounted for.

“We are compelled to never forget,” said the Rev. Dr. Robert Johnson of Vets Helping Vets.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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