OSKALOOSA — “You don’t need a uniform to serve.”
Tim Hadley, a chaplain with the Iowa National Guard, spoke at the Oskaloosa High School Veterans Day assembly organized by the student council, with a message that everyone can make a difference.
“Contribute, create, care,” he said. “That’s how you make a veteran like myself and all of our other veterans proud to fight for the greatest country in the world.”
Hadley said he often has people ask him what they can to honor someone in the military.
“Here’s what I say. I know it’s cliche, and I get it, but I stand by it and I mean it,” he said. “If you really want to thank the Americans who fought for our country, be the type of American worth fighting for.”
Hadley shared a quote from one of his favorite authors, J. R. R. Tolkein.
“You might recognize that name. He wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy,” he said. “In the book ‘The Two Towers,’ he says this: ‘War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.’”
That is why veterans defend America, Hadley said.
“The men and women seated here and around this gymnasium will tell you that the reason that they signed up was not the love of bombs, grenades and bullets – although those things are really stinking cool,” he said, “the real reason is a love of country and the love of the men and women that they serve with.”
Be the type of American worth fighting for, Hadley again urged.
“Wake up every day and decide you’re going to make a difference. You’re like “well, I”m only 15, I”m only 14, I’m only whatever.’ The men and women that stormed those beaches were 17, 18 years old. I think they made a difference,” he said. “You have no excuse that you can’t wake up and make a difference when you have people throughout history who have stood up and said ‘I’ll do this.’”
That doesn’t mean everyone has to enlist in the military, Hadley said.
“In fact, less than 1 percent of Americans serve,” he said. “And I think that’s ok. Because I think there are lots of little ways to get involved. And have values that make our country great – through your actions, not just your appreciation.”
Hadley gave suggestions of ways anybody can be of service to others.
“Volunteer at a shelter. Help the needy. Give to your church or your synagogue. Stand up for the disenfranchised and the helpless. Fight hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism,” he said. “You don’t have to wear a uniform to do any of the things I just mentioned. They all cost zero dollars so they’re all in your budget.”
Veterans Day, Hadley said, is not just about veterans, but it is about Americans.
“It is a day to remember why they were fighting and a day for all of us to begin our journey of protecting our freedoms and the freedom of many future generations,” he said. “Thank you guys for honoring our veterans today. Let us walk toward tomorrow still honoring by living in the freedom that they protected. God bless our veterans and God bless the United States of America.”