November 11, 2016

President Barack Obama spoke at Arlington National Cemetary for the last time as Commander in Chief.

Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you seek true humility and selflessness, look to a veteran.

Look to someone like First Lieutenant Irving Learner. He was born in Chicago to Russian-Jewish immigrants during World War I. He served as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, flying dozens of missions toward the end of World War II. When he returned home, Irving did what a lot of veterans do. He put his medals away, he kept humble about his service, started living a quiet life.

One fall day walking down Sheffield Avenue on Chicago's North Side, a stranger stopped him. He said thank you for your service and he handed him a ticket to see the Cubs play in the World Series. Now, it's a good thing Irving took that ticket because it would be awhile until his next chance! [laughter] Irving retired managing the warehouses for his brother-in-law's tire company. He got married to a sergeant in the Women's Air Corps, no less. He raised four children, the oldest of whom, Susan, is celebrating her 71st birthday today. On a June morning many years ago, another one of Irving's daughters, Carol, called to check in. Her mother answered but was in a rush. We can't talk, she said, your father is being honored and we're late. Carol asked honored for what? And the answer came for his heroism in the skies above Normandy exactly 50 years earlier. You see, Irving's children never knew that their father flew over those French beachheads on D-Day. He never mentioned it. Now when they call to check in, his children always say thank you for saving the world. And Irving, sharp as ever at 100 years young, always replies well, I had a little help.

Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you doubt the courage and goodness and selflessness is possible, stop and look to a veteran.

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