Written by Allan Holden   All rights reserved

    We have so much to be thankful for here in America. As I start this newsletter, it is Veteran's Day and one has to truly be thankful for America's finest. God has blessed this country with the finest military since its beginning!

    I turned 18 in July, 1969. That is when I was required to sign up for the draft. At the time, the war in Vietnam was really boiling. For me the whole idea of going to war and possibly being killed hung over me like a shadow, a dark shadow that even followed me to bed at night.

    When you are an 18 year old living in America, just out of high school, you feel invincible! However when you are qualified to fight in a deadly war, well, it really brings you back to reality! That wasn't a fear that first popped into my mind on my 18th birthday. No, that fear, or frightening black shadow, started to haunt me as early as age 15.

    That is something that the last two generations have not needed to worry about. I don't think most people had any idea of the stress many young men carried during this time. Because of pride, this fear was something that wasn't talked about. Early on in my family history there were many brave warriors, dating back to the Revolutionary War. My great x 5 grandfather, Martin Harter was the largest land owner in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. That land he received as payment for his service in the war. His great grandson, Martin Harter III, was also a brave soldier in the Civil War. He was mustered out of Kalamazoo.

    So what happened to me? I was afraid to go and I carried that fear through what should have been the best years of a young man's life. Then in December 1969, America held its first draft lottery since 1942. The lottery was televised and I missed the first 30 dates that were drawn.

    They had 366 ping-pong balls in a big bowl. On each of the balls was a month and date. If your date was drawn within in the first 30, you might as well start packing for boot camp! The first number drawn was September 14th, and the last number drawn, number 366, was June, 8th. My birthday, July 7th, was drawn as number 365.

    The headlines in a few newspapers actually announced September 14 as the lotto winner! That still drives me nuts! Frankly, I felt like I was the winner. Number 365 means there was no chance that I would be drafted! I did indeed feel like a winner and was ready to have a party! However, my attitude was to change quickly. I called each of my friends and every last one of them had very low numbers and, sure enough, they went to serve.

    That cloud went away for a few minutes but quickly returned, darker than ever! I didn't want to lose any of my buddies. The lottery affected the lives of 850,000. I don't, to this day, understand any advantage to having a lottery. You are hearing that from someone who had the best number possible... well almost!

    Today, my store is behind the local U.S. Army Career Center and the young men that I meet here are those who want to join our military and to defend this land! They are just amazing men! Former presidential candidate, John Kerry described this generation of soldiers as uneducated dummies. Well, that is pure hogwash! It is amazing to me that someone, who has desired the office of Commander and Chief could imply something that stupid.

    How often do you pray for our young men and women in uniform? Lately I have been praying for them more often than ever before. Also, I try to let them know how much I appreciate their service. Having matured over the last 38 years since I registered for the draft, I regret that I didn't do my share in service to my country.

Here are some interesting numbers that I found about the Vietnam war.

1. The youngest Vietnam KIA is believed to be Dan Bullock USMC, at 15 years old.

2. At least 5 men killed in Vietnam were 16 years old.

3. At least 12 men killed in Vietnam were 17 years old.

4. There are 120 persons who listed foreign countries as their home of record.

5. At least 25,000 of those killed were 20 years old or younger.

6. The oldest man killed was 62 years old.

7. More than 17,000 of those killed were married.

8. Veterans killed on their first day in Vietnam 997

I believe that more people than you or I will ever know who enjoy the hobby of metal detecting, are veterans.

    I had an incident in my life that appeared funny when it happened, but as I have thought back on it from time to time, it breaks my heart. One day, back in 1983, I took a phone call from a man who asked me many questions about the top-of-the line White's metal detector. He asked good questions, but I knew that I could do a better job of serving him if he came into the store. When I suggested that, he told me that he was in the Veteran's Hospital at Fort Custer. He told me that he would buy the detector and he wanted me to deliver it to the hospital.

    I took the detector to him and his directions were perfect! He even met me at the door and took me to his room. I could see that we needed more space to put the detector together and demonstrate it. He took me to a very large recreation room with a highly- polished wooden floor. Around the room, against the walls, there were men scattered about sitting on padded benches. Several of these men where in wheelchairs. As I looked around the room it was amazing; it was as if I wasn't even noticed by most of them! Many of the men in wheelchairs were sleeping.

    I assembled the detector on a vacant pool table. After I turned it on, I figured I would be demonstrating as the coil hung over the edge of the pool table. That was when I realized I had forgotten my plastic demo-strips with different good and bad targets glued in place on them. I picked up the detector and dipped the coil towards the floor. I was fully expecting it to respond to metal in the sub-floor, but it didn't! I swept the coil over the floor and I only got a spattering of noise from nails which were easily discriminated out.

    After demonstrating the basic tuning steps, it was time to hear some good targets. I removed some coins from my pocket and tossed them out onto the floor. There were two quarters, a dime and a nickel. They landed on the floor, almost on top of each other, so I walked over and was about to spread them apart with my foot. That was when I heard someone running toward me at full speed! I looked up, and as I did, a man went down into a feet-first slide! It was like he was sliding in at home plate!

    His slide almost came to a stop beside the coins, which he quickly picked up. In one smooth, fluid- motion, he was on his feet again and, and in two strides, he was back up to full- speed. He ran to the furthest corner of the huge room and into a chair! One of the nurses softly chuckled and offered to give me some more coins.

    Strange? You bet! There could be many things that would explain this young man's behavior. Most people suggested the man could have suffered a head injury and that could have happened on civilian time, after his service. Another friend suggested it could have been caused by long term drug use. But, you know what? It could have been the result of this man putting his life on the line to protect my freedom! It seemed funny at the time . . . until I had time to really think about it. Many times this memory has brought a tear to my eye.

    This Thanksgiving, the number 2 item on my list of things to be thankful for, along with my wife and family, are our veterans! The number one thing on my list of things to be thankful for is my Lord who gave His life for each one

of these special men and women.

God bless each of our veterans!