Sentinels of Freedom article from The Pilot

Sentinels of Freedom Web site

"When Johnny comes marching home again" the old song says.
A lot are coming home again, but not all are marching. Too many are coming home lame and blind, coming home with missing arms and legs, coming home after suffering what would have been mortal wounds in earlier wars.

Some will spend the rest of their lives in hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some will return forever haunted by what they endured and what they saw. Some will return to active duty, marching on prosthetic legs to new jobs on bases around the world.

Some will need the kind of help no hospital provides, the medicine no doctor prescribes: welcoming support from a responsible community of their fellow Americans offering a hand, an open door, a word of encouragement, a real chance to find a place to live, a place to work, a place to begin life anew.

Involving the Community

Martha and Peyton Gentry gave us a chance to be that community by bringing the Sentinels of Freedom scholarship program to Moore County. A year ago, they started quietly putting together a local team of leaders. That team sought resources to bring one recovering service member -- from any branch of military service -- here as our county's first Sentinel.
There was a time when church circles and civic clubs rolled bandages, saved tinfoil, staged scrap drives, planted victory gardens. There was a time when the country rationed its goods and bought war bonds.

Today there are no blackouts, no air-raid drills, no ration books or coupons in this war -- only the hidden return of flag-draped coffins and thousands of disabled men and women, some of whom badly need the four-year scholarship help we can give them. Our businesses can find appropriate jobs for them. Our brokers (like the Gentrys at Remax, and others) can find houses they can afford. There can be schools for their children. Our bankers, doctors and educators will help. We are an affluent community financially and culturally. We have the resources.

Not One but Three

Moore County has been home to every stage of military service for many years. A generation ago, paratroopers practiced jumps at Knollwood Field before shipping out for North Africa, Europe and the Pacific. Today, Special Forces soldiers train here before donning the Green Beret. Military retirees work in our schools, serve on our boards and drive golf balls down our fairways.

The Gentrys wanted to do something for those who'd served us and paid a heavy physical price. They did more than that. They wanted to help them, but they helped us. They did us all a remarkable service. They gave us a chance to help, to do rather than say, to become personally involved. Retired Maj. Gen. Sid Shachnow raised the bar: We will start with not one, but three Sentinel families, he said.

The general and the Gentrys are right. If there is a place in this country where the Sentinels scholarship program will work, and work well, It's here. If there are people anywhere who are able to shepherd these wounded to a full re-entry into life after war, we are those people.

Somewhere a badly wounded veteran is wondering how to make it, how to care for the family, where to find work, where to make a home. He or she doesn't know it yet, but this is that home.