Veterans built our traditions, leave us a legacy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Commentary by Clif Lusk

The visual presence of Alabama State Troopers on the state’s highways has been on the decline in the last 18 months or so.

Cutbacks in state funds have left fewer troopers patrolling the roads on a regular basis, although a heightened public relations effort has delivered the message about speeding.

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That’s why the sight took me by surprise. At first I thought it must me some sort of wreck. The Trooper’s red and blues were going and the wig-wags in the headlights. Behind him were headlines backed up toward the west. Then I saw that there were two Troopers in what appeared to be a rolling column with two Greyhound-sized buses in tow. A little farther back in the procession was a paneled trailer being pulled by what I would commonly call a deuce-and-a-half tractor, although I’m sure the Army has a more up-to-date name for the truck. At any rate it was a little smaller than an 18-wheeler. Behind that were two more Troopers and line of cars, trucks and vans with their headlights on.

If it had been a Friday, I’d of sworn it was the Crimson Tide headed out take on some foe.

After the deuce-and-a-half passed me, I was able to read what was on its trailer: “Alabama National Guard.”

This column set out to be my annual Veterans Day column – I’ve written one every single year for the past “umpteen” years because I believe that on at least one day, our nation should remember.

While’ my point about veterans will still be made in today’s column, I’ve altered it just a bit.

Alabama may not be able to afford to keep the Troopers on the road “twenty-four – seven” to catch speeders or drunks, but we can still, obviously, provide escorts to our fighting men and women.

That in itself is a strong endorsement of how our state feels about sending its sons and daughters to war. It’s a priority.

A four-Trooper escort ought to be the equivalent of a 21-gun salute.

On the eve of celebrating those among us who gave of themselves so that we all might be free, Alabama is once again sending its own into Harm’s Way.

Some will return, some – God forbid – will not. Each citizen soldier will sacrifice – and each soldier’s family will feel the burden of being without their loved one.

The men and women of the Alabama National Guard deserve our most profound thanks. They have led the nation in deployments, along with our sister southern states, because we have a strong tradition of service, a sense of duty and a call to honor.

Notice the word “tradition.”

Traditions aren’t something you and I create, although what we do now may well become a tradition down the road.

Traditions are created by those who went before us.

Our veterans have left us the legacy that today’s fighting men and women follow. Without their example of sacrifice and self-reliance, we would be cowering in caves waiting for the skies to again unleash a fiery cataclysm.

Instead, terrorists like Osama bin Laden are cowering in their caves, reduced to sending video tapes instead of delivering death at America’s doorsteps.

That’s the legacy our veterans have left us. That’s the tradition we follow now as Alabama sends yet more its own to battle.

Like in other families, mine has its share of veterans.

My grandfather “Pop” Lusk served in the South Pacific in “the Big War.” He came home bald due to Jungle Rot and had nightmares about the battles until the day he died in 1972.

My dad served in the Air Force in the deserts of the Saudi peninsula. My father-in-law served during Korea and retired from the Mississippi National Guard. My cousins served in Vietnam and a few in Gulf War I.

Predating those conflicts, my forebears fought as doughboys in France, on both Union and Confederate sides of the War Between the States, fought the British near Washington in the War of 1812, and were there for the Revolution.

Their sense of honor, duty and sacrifice is why we have the ability to live under the stars and stripes.

This weekend’s American Profile magazine carried as its cover story “Freedom’s Responsibilities.” It’s forward was penned by long-time TV newsman Brit Hume, who made a powerful observation.

“… And no nation on earth has ever left war dead in so many places where not one went for the purpose of conquest.”

Wow. That’s our nation’s military tradition – we don’t fight for conquest, we fight for freedom.

That’s the legacy our veterans give us, and to them, I offer my humblest thanks.

Clif Lusk is editor of The Times. Contact him via e-mail at