The land of the free and the brave who keep it that way
Posted By Raela Gore | June 30, 2014 7:12 am
SSG Chris Denham has proudly served his country for nearly 15 years.
For SSG Chris Denham and countless men and women of service in this country, the Fourth of July means more than fireworks and cookouts.
SSG Denham is the Recruiting and Retention NCO for White County and has been in the military for nearly 15 years. SSG Denham served one year in Iraq and comes from an eight-generation legacy of service.
“It’s a big holiday for us,” he said. “Not for the festivities, but for the pride of serving this nation. To me, I’m doing what needs to be done to take care of this community and to take care of our country.
“It does make me feel good, but on the other side, it reminds me that we have a lot to be thankful for. This country could be in a different place if we didn’t have people standing up and serving.”
As a recruiter, SSG Denham takes pride in seeing young men and women pick up where veterans have left off.
“As a recruiter, I get to see these young people go off to basic training and know that they’re going to pick up where—in about five years, I’ll retire—where I’m leaving off,” he said. “And our nation will still be taken care of.”
The Fourth of July is both a time of celebration and contemplation for SSG Denham.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I do like seeing the festivities and the celebration, but a lot of people forget about the people who are still deployed.
“We still have people in Afghanistan, we have units in Jordan and in Djibouti, and people tend to forget that we still have people in harm’s way. It’s bittersweet because I remember those who we have lost.
“So while people are enjoying their barbeque and the fireworks, I still get goose bumps when I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ especially on that day.”
SSG Denham reminds people to thank all of those who have sacrificed.
“If nothing else, just shake his or her hand and say, ‘Thank you for your sacrifice and thank you for your family’s sacrifice.’ So many people thank the veteran, but don’t realize that there’s a home front we leave behind.
“I had to leave my kids behind for a year. People tend to forget that while we do go in harm’s way, it’s our families who are left to run everything for us. So it’s not just our sacrifice—it’s their sacrifice.”
SSG Denham hopes people will remember their thankfulness to service men and women even when these patriotic times of the year are over.
“And it’s not just on the Fourth of July—it’s every day. If you see a veteran—even if he or she isn’t in uniform—if he or she is wearing a baseball cap that says that he or she is a Vietnam veteran or Desert Storm veteran, thank them for what they do, but also thank their families for supporting them.
“They had to stay behind and wonder day to day what’s going on while their service member is gone.”
Tragically, SSG Denham lost his best friend in Iraq.
“[The Fourth of July] would always bring back memories of him,” he said. “It was hard. It really was. It shook me to where it made me question if I was going to stay in. I stayed in, and I’m still in. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t remember him. I remember the anniversary of his death, and I remember his birthday.”
On meaningful days, a group of approximately eight service men and women who knew the fallen hero visit his gravesite in Dixon. The group recognized his birthday, the day of his passing, and important dates like Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.
“We’ll sit around his gravesite, and we’ll be there two or three hours just talking, catching up, and remembering him,” SSG Denham said. “It’s an emotional day for us because we realize that we are very fortunate to still be here. There’s not a dry eye when we’re done.”
After his years of service, SSG Denham would like to thank the community for the support he’s had along the way.
“Both as a recruiter and as a veteran, I know the community thanks me for my service, but I don’t see myself doing anything exceptional,” he said. “I put on my uniform, and I go to work just like they may go to work in a factory. But I’d like to thank the community for allowing me to do this. They stand behind us, and we stand behind them.”