Greetings, everyone. I pray y’all had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving. Our oldest daughter had a fabulous idea back in August, that we spend Thanksgiving up in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains. It has been many years since I have been up to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but the serenity and beauty are something you never forget. I think we, as a nation, Americans, need to step back and find a moment of peace and serenity in these times. And so, instead of the usual political punditry, I wanted to share my reflections from up here what we Tennessee graduates fondly refer to as “Rocky Top.”
What am I thankful for?
I am thankful that I can travel anywhere across this beautiful country. We should never take for granted the freedom of movement that we have in America, especially since we lost it two years ago. And there are still those who would seek to restrict that freedom all for their quest for power and control. I pray that we never allow vaccines or health passports to become part of our culture or our way of life here in America.
I am thankful to have been able to take my family, especially my little grandson, Jaxton Bernard, to my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, 40 years after I graduated from there. What a real blessing to see my little Jaxton run the field of Neyland Stadium and play in the orange and white checkerboard end zone. I hope that every parent and grandparent can have the opportunity to take their little ones back to their alma mater. As well, it was awesome to take the picture of my wife Angela and daughters Aubrey and Austen with the bronze statue of Tennessee women’s basketball icon, Pat Summit, the epitome and embodiment of excellence, a role model for men and women.
I am thankful for the wonderful folks with whom I had the chance to meet and share greetings. Whether it was walking through Gatlinburg, being on the tramway heading up to Ober Gatlinburg, hiking the trails in the Smoky Mountain National Park, in the Food City in Gatlinburg, or walking along through Dollywood. And speaking of being in Dollywood, it was such a blessing to see parents caring for their disabled children. It reminded me that amid the beauty and splendor that God has given us here in these majestic mountains . . . the greatest beauty and splendor is God’s gift of life. To know that there are parents who embrace their children with love, regardless of their condition, and seek to give them the best possible quality of life is humble and honorable.
Perhaps we should all take time to get away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and awake to the peace that surpasses all understanding. The Thanksgiving and Christmas season is a time for reflection and giving. However, it is also a time when we should realize that some are alone and their reflections can cause pain. And that can be a true reality for many of our veterans. We should not have any homeless and jobless veterans in America. We should not have any veterans who feel left behind and abandoned by the country for which they were willing to give the last full measure of devotion. I can just imagine how therapeutic it would be for our men and women who served in uniform to walk the trails here in the Smoky Mountains and find that simple peace that they so desperately need.
As the plane takes off from Knoxville’s McGhee-Tyson airport, I will look back down upon the mountains and take a deep breath, reflecting on being back on Rocky Top. But I will be refreshed and recommitted to fight for and stand for all that makes our America this beautiful land of the free and home of the brave. We have so many great freedoms and they are worth protecting and defending. It is our duty to ensure these freedoms are passed down to our subsequent generations . . . that is our challenge.
I accept that challenge . . . will you?
Steadfast and Loyal.
This article first appeared at Townhall.com.