Our boy is home again. Hurrah, hurrah!

Our boy is home again. Hurrah, hurrah!

In most places, the sound of howling sirens usually isn’t a good thing, but here in the rural communities of Macoupin County, those sounds are just as likely to signify good news as bad. Such was the case Saturday evening when we welcomed home one of our own: Illinois National Guard 108th Sustainment Brigade Command Sergeant Major Jack Burns.

At a time when our children look to twerking pop stars and ill-behaved professional athletes as role models, it’s refreshing to have someone like Jack among us. He’s the real deal. A teacher by trade, he’s the sort of person who doesn’t really need any professional certification in order to demonstrate how to get a job done. It comes naturally to him.

Whenever there’s a need for a speaker to commemorate soldiers who made sacrifices for our freedoms, Jack is always there. Jack doesn’t do this because he’s a fan of public speaking. He doesn’t do it for a moment in the spotlight. He does it because he wants us to understand. That’s the teacher in him, I suppose. When he reminds us to “thank a veteran,” he doesn’t mean him, necessarily, although he’s always gracious when getting those thanks. He wants us to be grateful for the efforts of his fellow soldiers and all those who came before him. He wants us to get it. We need to be thankful (more so, probably) just as much as those in the military should be thanked.

I always used to smile when I’d drive by the high school and see Jack on the school lawn marching his students around in Civil War-era military formations. I found it amusing because I didn’t understand. It took me a while to figure out that in subjects like reading, writing or math, students learn by doing, but how does one “do” history? Well, he found a way to teach history by doing it.

Today, battles are waged from a distance with missiles, drones and satellite technology. Back then, it was man-to-man combat and those soldiers actually had to see the faces of those they fought. It’s difficult for today’s students to understand the great sacrifices servicemen (and women) had to make throughout most of our history. To understand our nation’s wars is to understand things about our country like its borders, language and, perhaps, future.

Jack has the sort of dedication and mindset most of us can’t comprehend. I once heard him explain that when he’s deployed his concerns lie with the young people in his charge rather than with his family back home. His reasoning is that he knows his extended family will be here to take care of his wife and kids if they need anything. His focus is getting his men back home to their families.

I’m not cut from the same mettle as Jack Burns, but I’m getting better. It used to be I’d flip through the TV stations, land on the Military Channel where there would be a show called something like The Top 10 Combat Weapons or The World’s Greatest Tank Battles, and I’d wonder who the heck watches this stuff (except I wouldn’t say “stuff”). Now, I always remind myself Jack Burns watches that “stuff.”

Thank you, Jack Burns, for your service and for the strength of character you put forth in all that you do. Our community is better with you in it.

By Jan Dona