Aakre prays that America will remain ‘one nation under God’

Aakre prays that America will remain 'one nation under God'
The Rev. Sandy Aakre, keynote speaker at Vermillion's Veterans Day program, said he is worried that the United States, as a nation, is drifting away from honoring its war veterans.

The program was held Saturday morning at the W.H. Over Museum.

He fears America's citizens have begun to place more importance on material rather than spiritual aspects of life.

Anyone who travels to Pierre or Washington, DC may view memorials to honor the fallen veterans of the nation's great military conflicts.

"They (the memorials) are all filled with names of young people who still wanted to hang on to life," Aakre said. "But they gave it. All of us owe them a great debt, and we need to remember their sacrifice with thankfulness and thank God for that precious gift that they gave to us."

The "precious gift" given to all Americans has helped make the United States the richest country in the world.

Too many citizens, however, are squandering that gift, he said.

"Today, we eat and are filled, and yet, we are not satisfied," Aakre said. "Today, we are building houses that are beautiful, but we're not building homes, and our families are suffering."

Americans are enjoying a life of abundance, he said.

"But we find we still hunger for happiness," he said. "It just eludes us somehow."

Aakre said most Americans have become forgetful.

"They are forgetting to thank our veterans, forgetting the blessings that this nation has provided, forgetting the trials of that grand old flag," he said. "And even worse, they are forgetting the Lord thy God."

Aakre, the pastor at First Baptist Church in Vermillion, has twice been deployed to Iraq. In late 2003, he served in the Middle East when the 153rd Engineering Battalion of the South Dakota National Guard was activated.

Earlier that year, he served with the 147th Field Artillery.

"The last two years … I've been able to see a lot of the troops on a fairly regular basis," he said.

Aakre remembers in particular a conversation he had with a soldier who admitted it took some time for him to adjust when he returned home from Iraq.

Turn to aakre on Page 14

The guardsman told Aakre he needed to "sort things out" after his return. Life was beginning to return to normal, but that all changed at Christmas.

The soldier told Aakre that his four children opened their gifts, and wondered why they hadn't received more presents.

A year earlier, this soldier had been in Iraq, where children begged for bottles of pure water.

" 'We come home and we realize how much we have,' "

Aakre said, quoting the soldier. " 'We have so much, and we're so materialistic. We've become an entitlement society.' "

Aakre calls the soldiers he's counseled over the years "my guys." A great number of them, he said, willingly have returned to serve in Iraq.

"They see that this country offers so much as a nation to its own people," he said. "And yet they see that there are so many that seem oblivious to that fact."

Aakre knew his audience, many who are local veterans, have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by service men and women.

"I pray that each of you here today continues to love our country, and will be a person who will continue to stand up for God, our nation and our veterans," he said, "so that we once again may be what I pray we'll always be – one nation under God." "To our veterans, and families of our valiant warriors and fallen heroes, America is deeply grateful for your unselfish service and for your profound sacrifice," said Roger Kozak, commander of the Wallace American Legion Post #1 of Vermillion. "Today there are almost 25 million military veterans in the United States. Those great Americans have given us a marvelous gift of freedom, a gift that needs to be continuously cherished and preserved."

President Ronald Reagan once said, " 'Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in a bloodstream,' " Kozak said, quoting Reagan. " 'It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.' "

Maxine Johnson, a volunteer at the W.H. Over Museum, described the various patriotic decorations on display in the building's Sletwold Hall.

"I hope that you enjoy this day and this exhibit, because it is in your honor," she told the veterans in the audience. "I always enjoy so much this day of remembering, and I hope that none of us will ever forget how often and how well our armed services have ensured our safe lives here in America.

"I know I speak for all of us when I say thank you," Johnson said.

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