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For Sims family and others, Veterans Day a time of reflection

Posted: November 9, 2010 5:11 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Col. John C. Sims (in glasses) opens presents including a rifle at a farewell party in Vietnam in 1970.

Veterans Day is a day to honor those individuals who have fought to maintain the freedoms we have in the United States of America. It has never been a very significant holiday, especially compared to rival holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. For most people it may not be more than a day off work or an opportunity to view a parade. But for some us, it is a deeply personal holiday as we think about the sacrifice of service our loved ones have made. In fact, there are usually veterans and their families all around us, living their lives unnoticed and unappreciated.

The life of a military family is unique. While the parent is at war, the family stays behind in prayer and support. When there is not a war, the families often move as they are transferred around the country and even overseas. It is not an easy life for military families. Although it may seem odd, it creates a group of individuals that are displaced and isolated.

“Where are you from?” is a question I have never been sure how to answer. I often say that I am from South Carolina although that is a stretch. The reality is that my parents are from South Carolina. My father, John C. Sims Jr., grew up in Rock Hill and my mother, Bobbie Brewer Sims, grew up in Camden. I did live in Camden for one year while I was in the fourth grade. That was the year my dad left my mom and four children for an entire year to fight in a war.

He went to a faraway country to fight a war that was unpopular. Long before the war in Iraq and Afghanistan there was the Vietnam War. My father risked his life for our country. Fortunately, he came back to the United States uninjured. There was not a parade, nor was there any fanfare. The only big event I recall was the fact that we uprooted once again and moved from Camden to Virginia. It would be the fifth move of my life on the way to over 10 moves by the time I graduated from high school. 

The next time I would return to South Carolina was when I attended Clemson University. Soon after I went to Clemson, my father retired from the Army. When selecting a place to retire, my parents chose the town my mom had grown up in: Camden. After serving in the Army for over 20 years, Col. Sims “retired” and began working with JRROTC students in the county. It would be another 10 years before he officially retired.

Again this year we will drive to Camden to visit family and celebrate Christmas. My reflections of Camden always seem to center on my dad and the sacrifice he made to serve and protect our country. Because of my father and many brave men and women like him, folks in Camden can enjoy growing up in a small town. While I have never been able to adequately convey where I am from, I know it is a direct result of the military life my father chose. In the end, we are all from the “Land of the Free” and we all live in the “home of the brave.” Please take the time to thank a veteran today for allowing you to be from where you are.

(Joel K. Sims lives in Lancaster, Pa., with his wife and four children.)



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