Every time I sign my name, I think of a veteran.
I’m Brant Sappington, but I’m not the first. My unusual name is a generational gift from my grandfather, Brant Wesley Sappington, who passed away before I ever had the chance to know him.
Grandpa Brant was not a perfect man, as none of us are. He grew up hard and poor on a farm in rural Pontotoc County and struggled his entire life to make ends meet. Eventually he would marry and raise three children on a farm, with the kids working hard every day to bring in the cotton and put food on the table.
My grandfather was also a veteran of World War I. He joined the service in the waning days of the war in Europe and, as the family stories go, arrived overseas just in time to see the end of the conflict and find himself living on a base and awaiting his chance to return home. He might not have seen much combat, but he still made a major sacrifice to put his life on hold and go serve his country.
I’ve been told over the years that I look a bit like him. It’s funny how those traits are passed down from generation to generation. As I look at my own children, one of whom carries that same unusual middle name, I can’t help but see a glimmer of the old pictures of my grandfather and of my own face in their little faces.
Looking at my boys I also see a little of two other veterans who have both been major blessings in my own life. My son Liam looks a lot like my wife’s side of the family, particularly her father and brother.
Brittany’s dad, Donald Thorn, is a Vietnam veteran. He was drafted into the service during one of the most divisive conflicts our country has ever seen. He did his duty and returned home to build a life for a family that I was eventually blessed to become a part of. He is a man of character and conviction and his example has helped me be a better man.
My brother-in-law, Bruce Thorn, is one of the new crop of veterans that has been created by our current conflicts. Bruce is an officer in the Alabama National Guard and has seen service in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He enlisted shortly before the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, and found his life and education put on hold as he fulfilled his commitment to serve his country. I couldn’t be prouder of all he’s accomplished, more grateful for his service, or more thankful to call him my brother.
The one thing that all of these veterans in my life have in common is that they are all simple, everyday people who put their lives on hold and risked it all for something bigger than themselves. Veterans are our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands and other family members. They’re the people we interact with everyday who seem like just another person on the street, but who were willing to make a commitment and a sacrifice that’s difficult for those of us who have not served to truly understand.
This week as we celebrate another Veterans Day, let’s all take time to thank the veterans in our lives and remember that the freedoms we enjoy each day were purchased through the toil and sacrifice of those who put service to their country above themselves and the value of their own lives.