Dave Noblit didn't have to drop out of a plane 5,000 feet up to earn the respect of fellow veterans.
The 32-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who lost both of his legs while fighting in Afghanistan in 2010, already had that respect. Though the Elysburg resident didn’t get to make his first tandem parachute jump on Sunday as planned, five former U.S. Army Golden Knights, members of the All Veteran Parachute Team (AVPT), jumped into Ralpho Township Community Park to honor veterans and Noblit. That came during what would have been All Home Days at the park, if not for COVID-19. Afterward, AVPT President Mike Elliott, who took former President George H.W. Bush on three tandem jumps, presented Noblit with a folded American flag, as the jumpers all slowly saluted the Marine.
Noblit was supposed to do his first jump tethered to Elliott, until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded him, ruling he was not provided with the proper harness. He and Elliott plan to do the jump next year.
The delay, though, did not take away from the message of the event. Later, in talking with reporters, Elliott said, "You know it's so heartfelt. We try to give back to our veteran communities as much as we can, and I see guys like Dave all the time. We forget, every single day, we're out cutting our grass, we're barbecuing, playing in the pools, we forget, there's a veteran, a soldier somewhere, looking behind the scope of a weapon, protecting our freedom. We have to always put these guys up front."
He is right. Most people forget, in the rush of their daily lives, what veterans do. Not just in war, and not just with rifles and scopes or any other weapons. Sometimes it's computer screens monitoring radar or satellite pictures, providing emergency aid and medical aid here and abroad, serving as peacekeepers or conducting noncombatant evacuations of diplomatic staff or civilians. If it's the National Guard, it's helping communities recover after natural disasters. The Coast Guard protects our shores.
We don't always agree with the military actions. We may question where the military is sent or how it is used. Some military actions have generated anger, protest and dissent, never more so than during the Vietnam War.
The military does not initiate actions, though. It follows the orders of politicians. The all-voluntary military is us, our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. It is prepared to go wherever it is sent, with the ultimate goal of defending the Constitution and protecting us. Sometimes, many times, soldiers, sailors, Marines give their lives. Those 25 names tattooed on Dave Noblit's arm are of those who paid that ultimate price. Or, as in Noblit's case, they suffer a permanent physical disability.
They do it for their country, which means they do it for us. They shouldn't have to wait for Veterans Day for us to recognize that.
Imagine where we would be without veterans who helped save the world in World War II and who helped protect so many others.
Imagine if the American colonists had not taken up arms against the British.