by Alese Maples
In the backwoods of north Georgia, a small group of men over the age of 70 have realized that while they were retired from work, they were not ready to retire from life. They had things in common. They were proud veterans and most had seen combat. They had seen the horrors of war and knew intimately the price that they and their families had paid to fight the enemies of liberty. They shared a deep love of their country but were saddened by a current decline in patriotism.
Younger generations see problems like global warming and GMOs but through the eyes of an old man, the world looks like it needs saving from a different set of troubles. If it's true that without patriotism, a society starts to die, these men aim to fight for their country one last time. According to the American National Election Study (A.N.E.S.), the nation’s longest-running data collection on political attitudes and behavior, 81 percent of the Silent Generation (those 69 to 86 years old in 2014) love America, while only 58 percent of millennials (18 to 33 years old) feel the same.
The heroes of this story decided to do something to bridge the gap. They have set out on a mission. While their grandchildren sit in classrooms mindlessly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as an empty routine and their fellow retirees are hitting the road in R.V.s to see the country that they grew up learning to love, these weathered old flag-wavers are building a fort, where they hope to breathe life into the dying spirit of patriotism. They’re making a place where parents can bring children to observe the raising of the American flag while men in uniform sound the bugle during time honored ceremonies. Kids can take a crack at American history questions and listen to stories from a time when children recited the Pledge with a pride filled heart. They can get a small taste of what it takes to be a member of the armed forces by taking an obstacle course challenge. The veterans hold onto the hope that they can inspire youth to take an active role in the future of the nation, even if it means that their work load is heavy and their days are long.
Another worry of this group of seniors in action is the high number of deaths attributed to PTSD among military veterans. What if the fort could serve a dual purpose? It could be a place for kids to be inspired while serving as a refuge for veterans. Common are the stories of misuse of funds by major veteran charities. When a non-profit organization has reached the status of being the “best known”, the question arises, is it a result of massive advertisement spending and executives paid with handsome salaries? One such charity took in $300 million dollars last year alone while “warriors” who were meant to benefit from donations received tokens like backpacks, shaving kits and socks instead any real help. Then there’s the Veterans Administration where organizational problems, a backlog of claims and a lack of understanding the needs of military members has resulted in veterans dying while they wait for help.
Again, the old-timers come to the rescue of as many veterans as they can reach with the philosophy that if people concentrate on the important things in life, there will be no shortage of help. Knowing that the bonds between veterans can and do save lives, the men have rolled out the welcome mat for their brothers-in-arms.
Progress has not come easily. The road to the fort is paved with struggle. “We knocked on doors, made countless phone calls and sent dozens of emails to ask for donations. A lot of people gave freely but a few flat out implied we were frauds. We had to battle weather, injuries and even a grumpy neighbor who made complaints to the county and state” says a volunteer at the fort. “Every time we hit a wall, we would back up and make a new plan. We never gave up or gave in.”
Someone once said “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” Who knows what these seasoned fellows will dream up next but we can only hope they live long enough to share the wisdom of their experiences and their love of our incredible nation.
For more information on the fort, visit www.fortvillanow.com