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Let the Legislating begin! The new biennial session of the Nebraska State Legislature began on Wednesday, January 9. That day began with some pomp and circumstance as 13 new senators were sworn into office. Then, the honeymoon ended abruptly as we turned our focus to committee chairs. This year experience and expertise played a more significant role when voting on committee chairs. Consequently, neither of the two major political parties dominates the other when it comes to these committee chairs.
Thursday, January 10, marked the first day to introduce bills. Senators will have until January 23 to introduce new bills. Nevertheless, 138 bills were introduced on that first day. Some of the more controversial bills that were introduced that day include one to legalize medical marijuana and one to give judges the authority to seize guns from those deemed to be mentally incompetent to own a firearm.
The first piece of legislation that I introduced on that day was a resolution for a constitutional amendment for property tax relief. This resolution has the same wording as the citizen-led ballot initiative which is now circulating around the state. This constitutional amendment will allow all Nebraska property owners to claim 35 percent of their property tax bill as a credit or a refund on their Nebraska State income tax return. Because high property taxes are the number one issue dogging all Nebraskans, especially those living in Western Nebraska, I was proud to introduce this resolution as my first piece of legislation going into the 2019-2020 biennial session.
Besides my resolution for a constitutional amendment for property tax relief, I also introduced one other bill that first day. The other bill that I introduced was a bill to put the National Motto on display in every public school in Nebraska. The time has come for us to put God back into our schools. This bill simply states that schools need to put a poster with the national motto, “In God We Trust,” in every classroom or in another place, such as the school cafeteria, where all students will be able to read it on a daily basis. The bill should cost the State no money, because private individuals and businesses will be allowed to pay for the posters, thus, defraying any costs to the schools. Moreover, any school needing a poster can simply print one online or get a copy from my office. That bill also states that the Nebraska Attorney General will defend any school who gets sued by a group seeking to remove the posters from our schools.
On Friday, January 11, I introduced a bill to eliminate the Learning Community and I held a news conference in the rotunda of the Capitol following that day’s session to explain why I introduced the bill. The Learning Community is a State funded and State mandated program to help poor and disadvantaged children in the Omaha metropolitan area succeed academically. At least, that is what it started out to be more than ten years ago. The Learning Community has abandoned its original purpose and has expanded into areas well beyond its original scope and purpose. In short, it has devolved into an organization in search of a mission. Meanwhile, they waste millions of dollars on programs with no proven track record for success, and last year they started a foundation with no defined purpose, no regular members, and no elected members. The foundation’s programs and expenditures require no approval from the Learning Community’s board, nor are there any mechanism set in place to guarantee transparency to the public. Their meetings are not open to the public, nor do they require a public notice, nor do they even require an agenda. The foundation does not adhere to public records laws, nor have they disclosed how they intend to spend their money. It is wrong for Nebraskans to be funding a secretive foundation with no public accountability whatsoever; therefore, I believe the time has come to put an end to this revenue-wasting monstrosity.
On the last day of 2018 the Legislature’s Planning Committee released its Final Report covering the 2017-2018 Biennium. The report received the unanimous support of its committee members, but contained some very bad news about the State’s financial status. In short, the report warned that the State’s cash reserves, also known as the Rainy-Day Fund, have been depleted down to a dangerous level. The conclusion of the report was that the Legislature needs to restore the Rainy-Day Fund to two times an average month’s revenue over the course of the next two biennial budgets.
According to the Planning Committee’s report: “During the past two biennial budgets cash reserves were approximately halved, from approximately $700,000,000 to $300,000,000. Although the reserves are intended to serve the function of a shock absorber smoothing out the fiscal road in tough times, this dramatic halving occurred during a time of reasonably normal economic conditions. Simply put, the draw down on reserves meant expenses were not cut enough or revenues were not raised enough. In either case, the trend is most disturbing, and should it be permitted to continue, a fiscal crisis will ensue.”
The Planning Committee’s Final Report did not tell me anything I did not already know. In May of 2017 I held a press conference where I suggested that the Legislature cut $250,000,000 from its budget in order to make ends meet. The Appropriations Committee did not take my advice, and State revenues fell short of their projected goal by 232,000,000. Had the Appropriations Committee made the appropriate adjustments to the budget, the Final Report of the Legislature’s Planning Committee would not have contained such a dire warning of a looming fiscal crisis.
The State Legislature will now have to begin the new legislative session in a huge financial bind. Because voters approved Medicaid Expansion in November, legislators will be searching for a way to pay for it without dipping into the State’s Rainy-Day Fund. Moreover, the most pressing need facing Nebraskans is the need for property tax relief, which can only result in lower revenues for the State. We can now add to this financial burden the Final Report of the Legislature’s Planning Committee which directs the State to replenish its cash reserves by some $450,000,000 over the course of the next four years.
Make no mistake about it, there will be some in the Legislature who will want to raise your taxes. They will look at raising your sales taxes (including taxes on Internet sales), your gasoline taxes, your cigarette taxes and even your State income taxes as a way to generate more revenue for the State. However, I have said many times before, and so I will say it again: Nebraska does not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem. We got into this mess by spending too much money, so the only way out of it will be to reduce spending. Because very few Nebraskans can actually afford a tax hike, why should we raise taxes to pay for the past mistakes of the Legislature? As long as the Legislature continues to spend money like a drunken sailor, I will find it difficult to support any bill which comes with a hefty fiscal note.
Unless State revenues can somehow magically increase, the next two years should be about reducing the size of our state government, not increasing it. Unfortunately, the make-up of the Legislature continues to slide in the direction of fiscal irresponsibility. As the population of socialists from Eastern Nebraska continues to increase in the Legislature over and against the fiscal conservatives from Western and Central Nebraska, the prospects of ever restoring our cash reserves or balancing our budget without dipping into our Rainy-Day fund becomes ever-increasingly hopeless. Unless the Legislature can somehow figure things out, the Planning Committee’s stern warning of a looming fiscal crisis remains an approaching reality for the State. In fact, many, including me, would say that day has already arrived.
Now that the New Year has finally arrived, it is safe to say that this is the calm before the storm. The new biennium Session is scheduled to begin on January 9, so the political fireworks are about to begin. There will be several hotly contested bills that the State Legislature will have to grapple with this year, including such things as legalizing medical marijuana, so this week I would like to point out what some of the more important issues will be so that you will know what to watch for in the days ahead.
The first item to be settled will be the rules. This is easier said than done. The Legislature will most likely adopt the rules from the previous session in order to conduct business until a new set of rules can be approved. During the last biennium session, the Legislature argued over the rules for the first month, essentially shortening the longer 90 session into a 60 session, making it very difficult to pass non-priority bills and to pass a budget. This year we hope to have a much shorter debate over the rules, so that we can have more time to conduct the business of the State and to get more things done.
Running immediately out of the chute will be those seeking to chair the various committees of the Legislature. This year I will serve again on the Committee on Committees. The Committee on Committees decides who serves on each committee. Chairmanships, however, are determined differently. Any Senator can apply to become the chair of a committee, but they must first garner a majority vote of their peers in the Legislature. The vote is taken by way of a secret ballot on the chamber floor, so nobody knows how each Senator voted. The secret ballot is one of those rules I would like to change. I believe the public has a right to know how their Senator voted on these various chairmanships. Nevertheless, I will seek to maintain my current position as Chair of the Building Maintenance Committee, which is categorized as a Special Committee of the Legislature.
This year we will have 90 days to conduct the State’s business and to pass a budget. However, because the voters approved Medicaid Expansion last November, the Legislature will have to figure out a way to pay for the added expenses. Because the State’s cash reserves have been dangerously depleted, the Legislature will be forced to either raise taxes or to cut spending (or do both). A fight will necessarily ensue over raising taxes, which the Governor has vowed to veto, and also over which programs or departments to cut. I believe the only sensible way to balance the budget is to make appropriate cuts. Raising taxes only gives legislators more of other peoples’ hard-earned money to spend Willy Nilly.
Added to the stress of having to work out a budget will be the public’s need for property tax relief, which I have vowed to set as my number one priority again this year. I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment to give every property owner a 35 percent credit or refund of their property tax bill on their State Income Tax Return. Needless to say, this will surely liven the debate over how the State spends your hard-earned tax dollars. If legislators don’t want to listen to me, then they will be forced to hear from the voters in 2020. If all things go according to our plan, a similar citizen-led initiative will appear on the 2020 ballot, allowing the people to override the lack of support or indecisiveness of the Legislature. Moreover, if Gov. Ricketts really wants property tax relief, as he says he does, then let him begin by supporting our Constitutional Amendment for property tax relief.
Finally, farmers and ranchers desperately need a new way of valuing their agricultural land for tax purposes. Therefore, I will introduce new legislation this year to change the way we value agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity based system. This will be my best attempt yet at making this transition. This year I hope to have the Governor’s support in making this change. With God’s help, I believe we can make this change become a reality this year!
Earlier this month Nebraska State Senators Adam Morfeld and Anna Wishart, both from Lincoln, launched a new petition drive to legalize medical marijuana in our state. Instead of waiting to see the full effects of recreational marijuana use in Colorado, they presume that history will be on their side. But, just like what happened in Colorado, medical marijuana is not the end game in this long political fight.
What we already know about Colorado’s love for weed has not been good for that state. For instance, among teens age 12-17 marijuana use has risen by 39 percent, and traffic fatalities involving users have also dramatically climbed. From 2007-2012 traffic fatalities increased by 100 percent among those testing positive for the drug. Emergency room visits related to marijuana use also increased 57 percent from 2011 to 2013. Therefore, I reject the argument that marijuana usage, whether it be for medical reasons or for recreational reasons, bears no social consequences.
Marijuana remains an illegal drug. The marijuana plant remains on the federal government’s list of controlled substances. Colorado’s Amendment 64 has done nothing to legalize marijuana. Those who grow, manufacture, and dispense the product continue to do so in violation of federal laws. So, purchasing marijuana at a Colorado dispensary and bringing it across the state line into Nebraska remains a crime, and for this reason our jails near the Colorado border remain full of those charged with federal drug trafficking.
Colorado’s drug habit affects Nebraska in some rather debilitating ways. Because Colorado dispensaries located near the border sell to Nebraskans, Western Nebraska ends up paying the price for Colorado’s drug habit. For instance, Nebraskans often end up paying for the incarceration, the rehabilitation, and the welfare benefits of Colorado residents as well as our own residents who purchase the drug in Colorado; meanwhile, Colorado benefits from revenue generated from taxes placed on the sale of the marijuana. For these reasons and more, Nebraska Attorney General, Doug Peterson, has filed a lawsuit against the State of Colorado.
Common sense shows that using marijuana is just a bad choice for anyone to make. Many employers, for example, understand the harmful effects of marijuana’s use on the job, so they have begun testing for the drug during the hiring process and randomly thereafter. Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries mean that there are now fewer qualified job applicants living in Western Nebraska than there were just a few years ago.
When President Trump signed the farm bill last Thursday, he took hemp off the federal government’s list of controlled substances. Marijuana remains on that list of controlled substances. Hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant, and is used to make a variety of products from rope to lotions. Cannabidiol or CBD, which can be derived from either the hemp plant or the marijuana plant, must have hemp-derived THC levels below three percent in order to be legal by federal standards, making it impractical for use as a recreational drug. However, CBD remains prohibited by Nebraska’s laws.
Nebraska’s Attorney General issued a memo on November 16, 2018 reminding state law enforcement agencies that CBD remains illegal in Nebraska. According to the memo CBD continues to be included in Nebraska’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act’s legal definition of “marijuana.” Only two exceptions exist to the state statute. The first exception allows UNMC to study the drug until October 2019. The second exception allows for the sale of CBD oil, which has been approved by the FDA. But, according to Chris Peterson, an investigator with the Lincoln and Lancaster County Narcotics Task Force, CBD oil has never been approved by the FDA. Peterson also told KLKN news in Lincoln that the product is “not as safe as it is being purported.” Therefore, my purpose in writing today is to remind Nebraskans that both marijuana and hemp remain prohibited substances by Nebraska State Statutes.
As I sit by the fire with pen and paper in hand, reflecting on the events of the past year, gratitude and thanksgiving well up within me because of the tremendous opportunity I’ve had to serve the people of Legislative District 47. It truly is an honor and a privilege to represent all ten counties of Legislative District 47 in the Nebraska Legislature. The people of Western Nebraska truly are the salt of the earth.
Although it was a very tough session for passing any kind of legislation, I did manage to get one bill passed into law this year. LB 17 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on March 21, 2018. LB 17 updates the Nebraska Appraisal Management Company Registration Act for compliance with Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforce Act of 1989. Without this bill Nebraskans would not have been able to sell any real estate this year.
The biggest disappointment of the year, of course, came when Reform for Nebraska’s Future decided to pull the plug on our citizen-led ballot initiative for property tax relief. However, I believe fear of that petition drive caused legislators in Lincoln to act with a higher degree of fiscal restraint than they otherwise would have. Nevertheless, we have since begun a new ballot initiative for property tax relief, and much like the last petition drive with paid petition handlers, our new petition drive, staffed only with an army of volunteers, is practically signing itself. This ballot initiative is identical to the resolution for a Constitutional Amendment that I will introduce in January; it will allow every Nebraska property owner to claim thirty five percent of their property tax bill as a credit or refund on their Nebraska State Income Tax Return.
Although Governor Ricketts and I did not see eye-to-eye on agricultural land valuation reform this past year, I believe that is changing. There is hope for the future. 2019 may become the year that we finally change the way we value agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity based system. I have been collaborating with the Governor’s office, and I have also been working with experts in the field in order to write a better bill. My hope is that we can pass an even better bill into law next year.
As you may recall, instead of voting for property tax relief in November, Nebraskans voted in favor of Medicaid expansion. Consequently, the Appropriations Committee of the Nebraska Legislature will be searching for new ways to fund it next year. I expect the cost to be much higher than the $33 million originally projected by the Legislative Fiscal Office and the Department of Health and Human Services. Coupled with the fact that we have only 27 operational days of revenue left in our savings, State legislators simply won’t be able to pass any bills with hefty fiscal notes again this year. Instead, Senators as well as the heads of State agencies should be looking for ways to cut spending. The day of our fiscal reckoning will come shortly after we all hang our new calendars on the wall. Nebraska must finally get its fiscal house in order, and that process simply cannot happen without some pain and discomfort for some.
Especially as we consider the needs of those most in need of medical services, let us also be reminded of the poor and humble conditions upon which the Christ child was to be born: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,” Luke 2:6-7. Although Christ had a humble beginning, he has the power to bless each one of us today. Therefore, my prayer is that God will richly bless you in the New Year. Until then, Merry Christmas!
Political correctness drives me crazy!
Did you know that Veggie Tales is a very dangerous racist cartoon for children? Veggie Tales is a popular animated Christian video series designed to teach biblical morality to children. In 1993 animators, Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, launched Big Idea Productions in order to produce children’s videos with Christian themes. Veggie Tales, which depicts talking fruits and vegetables on a kitchen countertop, quickly became their best-selling product. However, today we are being told by Dreama Moon, a college professor at Cal State San Marcos, along with one of her undergraduate students that Veggie Tales is a dangerous racist cartoon because the videos always depict the villains as colored fruits and vegetables.
Political correctness has run amok! To be clear, there is nothing racist or dangerous about Veggie Tales. Instead, political correctness has now become one of our nation’s most malignant cultural cancers. Why do I say this? I say this because political correctness seeks to undermine our most sacred American values and institutions.
Among our most sacred American values is our God-given write to speak freely. Political correctness undermines the guarantee of free speech afforded to us by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It undermines our God-given right to freedom of speech and stifles the free expression of ideas by controlling what can and cannot be said both in private as well as in the public square. For instance, anyone who identifies those who have been illegally crossing our southern border as “illegal aliens” is automatically deemed to be a racist and is told to use the terminology of “undocumented immigrants” instead, even though the first term suggests no particular race at all.
Similarly, political correctness seeks to undermine the very foundations of religion as well as our American traditions. For instance, last week Jennifer Sinclair, principle of Manchester Elementary School in Elkhorn, Nebraska, was exposed for trying censure Christmas. In her memo to the school’s staff and teachers, she banned the use of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, “Elf on a Shelf,” Christmas carols, candy canes, reindeer, homemade ornaments, Christmas movies, and all other red and green items associated with Christmas. She did this despite the fact that Christmas has been recognized as a national holiday since 1870. After the Liberty Counsel, a First Amendment watchdog group based in Florida, sent a letter to the school district asserting that the ban showed hostility towards Christians, the school board members finally decided to put the principal on administrative leave.
Political correctness is even ruining women’s sports. For instance, anyone who questions the sex of a transgender person today is automatically counted as a bigoted sexist. So, educators are now being told that they can no longer question the gender of any student, and this has led to transgender athletes dominating in women’s sports.
Biological males competing as females in women’s sports are now winning championships and breaking records at the expense of those who are biologically female. Earlier this year, for example, biological males, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who self-identify as females, dominated Connecticut’s state track championships. Miller finished first in the 100 meter and 200 meter races, while Yearwood finished second in the 100 meter. Connecticut’s Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows these athletes to compete according to their gender identity, instead of their biological sex, and nobody, not even the parents, can question their wisdom.
Political correctness has become a scourge on American society. Therefore, this week I have chosen to use what freedom I have left in the press to expose this scourge, and to hopefully begin the process of removing this malignant tumor from American society. Instead of controlling what others say, I believe we should simply treat each other with respect. Political correctness adds nothing new to the Golden Rule taught by Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Matthew 7:12.
So, at the risk of being politically incorrect, let me be the first one to wish you a merry Christmas!
Sen. Steve Erdman Speaking in Harrison, NE
Last week I put a thousand miles on my truck as Joel Hunt (my Legislative Aide) and I toured together the ten counties of the Panhandle which make up Legislative District 47. Throughout the week I held nine town hall meetings in Bayard, Bridgeport, Chappell, Harrison, Hemingford, Kimball, Ogallala, Oshkosh, and Sidney. I would like to personally thank everyone who came out to attend these town hall meetings.
These town hall meetings are very important to me. These town hall meetings are important because they provide me with the opportunity to meet new people living in the Panhandle, to hear the concerns of the constituency, and to form strategies for the upcoming legislative session. They also give me the opportunity to communicate with the folks living in Western Nebraska.
After speaking to people from all ten counties in my district, I have been firmly reminded that the two most important priorities of mine going into the new legislative session need to be property tax relief and agricultural land valuation reform. These are the two issues which matter most to my constituents, and these have been my top two priorities for my first two years in the Nebraska Legislature. So, I remain eager to fight for these two causes again next year. Therefore, I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment to allow all property owners to claim 35 percent of their property tax bill as a credit or a refund on their State Income Tax return, and I have also been working on a new agricultural land valuation reform bill that will change the way we value agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity based system.
What came up as a new issue for me to tackle during these town hall meetings was the problem of antelope in the Panhandle. In the Western counties of the Panhandle, especially those bordering Colorado and Wyoming, antelope have been destroying crops and fences. Almost everywhere I went, constituents sought me out to talk about the problem of antelope on their land. During my journey through Sioux County alone we encountered a herd that Joel and I estimated at approximately 1,000 antelope. They were just too numerous to count. So, I understand that this is a big problem effecting many farmers and ranchers, and I intend to address this problem going forward.
The most controversial matter which came up in these town hall meetings was Medicaid Expansion. While the voters in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties alone were enough to guarantee passage of the Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, rural Nebraskans rejected it soundly. In the ten counties which comprise Legislative District 47 voters rejected the initiative by fifty five percent of the vote. Only forty five percent voted for it. In light of the fact that the majority of the voters living in District 47 opposed the Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, I am leaning towards voting against funding for Medicaid Expansion when it comes up in the Legislature. Funding for Medicaid Expansion could take important benefits away from our state’s poorest citizens, who need them most. I believe those who most need help from the State are children, single mothers, the sick, and the disabled, and funding for Medicaid Expansion may take benefits away from these folks in order to put more people on the Medicaid rolls.
Western Nebraska is beautiful place to live, and the people who live here are truly the salt of the earth. Thank you for allowing me to serve you and to represent you in the Nebraska Legislature. If you were unable to attend a town hall meeting in your neck of the woods, but would still like to voice your concerns, you may send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at (402) 471-2616.
The rock star, Ted Nugent, once quipped about hunting, saying: “Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians – except for the occasional mountain lion steak.” I sure hope by ‘vegetarian’, he meant animals, and not people!
Deer hunting in the fall has become a favorite and longstanding outdoor sport as well as an important family tradition in Western Nebraska. Every hunter loves to retell the story of getting his or her first deer. Deer hunting is also a time to get outside and to enjoy the peace and solitude of God’s Creation. Besides passing on the skill of shooting a rifle, deer hunting is also the time when fathers pass on to their children the values of appreciating nature, practicing gun safety, and never needlessly wounding an animal.
Unfortunately, the peace and solitude usually associated with deer hunting in Western Nebraska has been disturbed in recent years by certain non-residents looking to harvest the deer which graze on our land and bed down in our woods. Many of these outsiders do not share our values. The situation of certain outsiders hunting from trucks, trespassing on our land, shooting and wounding deer on private property without first getting permission from landowners now persists as annual problem. The situation has grown out of control and has become dangerous and risky such that many residents of Western Nebraska refuse to hunt on the opening weekend of gun deer season. And, it shouldn’t be this way!
Shouldn’t landowners have the first opportunity to harvest the deer that eat, sleep and play on their own land? Why should the peace and solitude of a landowner’s hunt be disturbed by those who have little respect for private property? Why should private landowners have to yield to those who have made no contribution whatsoever to the feeding and nurturing of the deer?
I have listened to many constituents throughout Legislative District 47 complain about outsiders flooding our district during the week of gun deer season, so it may be time to make a big change in the way we hunt in Nebraska. One of the best solutions which has been brought to my attention is to create a separate week of gun deer season reserved exclusively for landowners. According to this proposal, the week prior to the regular gun deer season would be reserved exclusively for private landowners to hunt on their own land. This would give those who own the land the first opportunity to harvest the deer on their own land without interference from outsiders.
Let’s face it. Ted Nugent was right. The last people in Western Nebraska who should be eating only fruits and vegetables are the human beings who have made Western Nebraska their home. And, just for the record, I have no mountain lion steaks in my freezer.
Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. Certainly, each person has their own list of things to be thankful for this time of the year. But, speaking as an American, what can we learn from our heritage that we should all be thankful for? In order to help us answer this question, let us turn to the Pilgrims.
First, the Pilgrims were thankful for religious liberty. Long before the Pilgrims ever came to America, they found themselves being oppressed by both the King of England as well as the Church of England. In America today each person is free to worship God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, and that is worth giving thanks for.
Second, the Pilgrims were thankful for the opportunity to rule themselves. The original charter made out by the Plymouth Council of New England had been created for Manhattan or what they called Northern Virginia at the time. But, the Mayflower had been blown off course up to Cape Cod. When they tried to sail around the cape, the currents were so strong that they nearly wrecked the ship. It was at that point that the Pilgrims resolved to come ashore at Cape Cod. Because they chose to settle in a region which was no longer considered to be part of Northern Virginia, the original charter became void. What they needed was a whole new compact.
The Mayflower Compact was written and signed by the remaining 41 men before anyone came ashore. While the Mayflower Compact retained the original mission of colonizing the northern parts of Virginia, they combined themselves together into a new civil body politic for the purpose of their “better Ordering and Preservation…” In short, they entered into a new kind of covenant, characterized by self-government. Because the passengers aboard the Mayflower had consented to the Mayflower Compact, it was deemed to be even more binding than the original charter. Nevertheless, this new idea of self-government became a sacred principle of the Plymouth Plantation, which eventually inspired Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. In America today we are free and we are no longer ruled by a tyrannical king, and that is worth giving thanks for.
Third, the Pilgrims were thankful for God’s providential care and protection in spite of their treacherous journey. Because of the rough weather, the Pilgrim’s three week journey had been turned into a journey lasting sixty-six days. Because of the way the ship got tossed about on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mayflower traveled at a rate of only two nautical miles per hour. At one point during the journey, the weather became so stormy and the winds so rough that the crew had to lower the sails and allow the wind to take them wherever it wanted. The Pilgrim’s would later explain this phenomenon as God’s providential hand directing their path.
When land was finally sighted on November 9, 1620, William Brewster, a man who had twice eluded arrest by King James, decided to read from the Bible. Brewster read Psalm 100 to the passengers aboard the Mayflower as a prayer of thanksgiving unto God. So, if you are reading this or having it read to you, isn’t that fact alone sufficient evidence of God’s providential care and protection over your life, and isn’t that something worth giving thanks for?
This week we honor and celebrate our veterans. No matter which branch of the military any particular American has served in, he or she deserves our utmost respect. Freedom is not free. In America liberty comes only as devoted individuals willfully serve their country, and if necessary lay down their lives for their fellow countrymen. So, today I would like to personally thank every man and woman who has ever served in our armed forces, including those who are currently serving our country.
It is important to honor our veterans, because there is a growing number of Americans who no longer appreciate the sacrifices made by our military personnel. For instance, Pete Davidson recently mocked Navy Seal veteran, Dan Crenshaw, on Saturday Night Live (SNL). Crenshaw is a retired lieutenant commander with the U.S. Navy, who was deployed overseas five times. However, on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan he lost his right eye because of an IED explosion and he nearly lost his left eye as well. Even though he lost his right eye, he still returned for two more tours of duty overseas. Today, Crenshaw wears a patch over his right eye, which Davidson and his audience thinks is funny. In spite of the mockery he received on SNL for his eyepatch, though, Crenshaw went on to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 6 with 53.4 percent of the vote in Texas’s 2nd Congressional District.
The sacrifices made by our military personnel are real and they can be very costly, and we need to remember that fact. There is never a just reason for flippancy towards our veterans, especially on Veterans Day. Instead, Veterans Day is a day for each American citizen to credit his or her freedom to those who paid for it. Some of our soldiers paid for our liberty with the ultimate payment of life itself.
During the days of the American Civil War William W. Bennett served as an army chaplain under the rebel command of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Bennett took the time to record some of the last words of his dying rebel soldiers. One of those soldiers was T.S. Chandler of the Sixth South Carolina Regiment. Bennett recorded Chandler’s last words, which were intended for his mother:
“Tell my mother that I am lying without hope of recovery…My hope is in Christ, for whose sake I hope to be saved. Tell her that she and my brother cannot see me again on earth, but they can meet me in heaven…I know I am going there.”
As we celebrate our veterans this week let us not forget that all gave some and some gave all.
The Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
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