Jared Lankford: Heroes closer than we think

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On Wednesday, Veterans Day, I watched and read as hundreds of my friends, coworkers and family posted, and rightfully so, thanks to our veterans on social media sites.

Lankford

I, however, posted nothing.

It wasn't because I was ungrateful, unappreciative, forgot, or even because I wanted my thoughts to stand out from the pack. It was because I couldn't find the right words to honor the men and women who serve and have served this great nation.

In my house, to the left of my television set, is a wood display case with a glass front. Encased is a triangularly folded American flag. On the front of the display, three words are etched on a brass nameplate: "Kelly David Baggerly."

Kelly was my uncle, the baby of five Baggerly children. Growing up, he excelled at sports and seemed to always find himself in mischief. My grandmother said he could swim faster than a fish and was strong as an ox.

Kelly became a Navy SEAL and specialized in explosives and reconnaissance. Kelly, along with his brothers, Phillip and Mike, proudly served our country in Vietnam.

During the conflict, Kelly spent most of his time in enemy territory. He once told me that he got so close to the enemy that to touch their foot, all he would have had to do was raise his index finger three inches.

When their service ended, all three came home. Mike and

Phillip settled into society. One worked for the United States Mint in Denver, and the other an electric company in New Mexico.

Kelly struggled to adjust to life back home. He found odd jobs to pay the bills, and you never knew when he was going to show up.

To me, he was the mysteriously cool uncle who taught me awesome things. Once, at a birthday party, Kelly rigged a time-delay fuse with a package of firecrackers and a cigarette to signal it was time to eat.

To some, that may not seem like much. But, to an 8-year-old boy, he was MacGyver.

Despite my uncle being stateside, whatever had happened to him in Vietnam had taken its toll mentally. Kelly found comfort in the form of a bottle, and eventually succumbed to the toxins contained therein at age 39.

I was present when that flag was presented to my grandparents. When my grandmother passed, Phil and Mike pulled me aside and told me they wanted me to have Kelly's flag.

Every day, and not just once a year, I am reminded of the sacrifices that our men and women have made so that I may attend sporting events and write for my readers.

Every day is Veterans Day for me. I sit at a table of freedom that was bought and paid for by the blood of others. For this, I am both humbled and grateful.

In today's world, we look for -- and champion -- heroes. I am related to three.

They performed a duty that I cannot. They were willing to sacrifice everything and paid a price I could not. We must never lose sight of the honor due to those that serve.

When I view my uncle's flag, I am reminded of an old saying -- all gave some, some gave all.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat He can be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com, or 417-847-2610.

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