By Jug Varner

The reasons behind the modern day celebrations of birthdays are quite different from the ancient origins and meanings.

Most of us today consider birthdays merely a family and friends oriented concept to celebrate the occasion of having lived another year” with hopes for continued health and longevity.

As we grow older we appreciate life more, and some of us eventually realize that age is merely a state of mind, not necessarily a coffin tack. Some, particularly the female gender, quit counting beyond age 49 and eventually become almost the same age as their youngest daughter (who may also stop counting at 49). Men, for the most part (with occasional un-manly exceptions) don’t dye their hair, don’t have face lifts, don’t wear make up, etc., and are generally proud of reaching each milestone for as long as possible. For them it is a matter of pride in a survival of the fittest.

My most recent such milestone came on the same day as our Sarasota ANA Golden Pelican Squadron’s monthly luncheon meeting. ANA is the accronym for Association of Naval Aviation, and I am currently our squadron C.O.

I hadn’t told anyone it was my birthday and so it came as a surprise when they broke out with the happy birthday song and a lighted candle in my piece of the Lemon cake we had for desert.

Captain Jack Kenyon USN (Ret) and wife Daisy attended the meeting as guests and long-time friends of Golden Pelican member Slim Russell and wife Edith. After the meeting Jack came over to me to say how much he appreciated my invocation that started the meeting and gave me a small plastic envelope.

It was a beautiful lapel pin of the stars and stripes along with a gold cross, attached to a small card imprinted with: “God Bless America” and “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord - Psalm 33:12.”

It was one of my nicest birthday presents ever - certainly from the standpoint of its meaning and the reason for its presentation by its giver. As we talked, he explained that at appropriate opportunities he has given away literally hundreds of these beautiful pins to those he thought might appreciate them… and wear them proudly.

After thanking him for his unique gift, I told him, “Many opportunities come to say or do nice little things like you do — yet, we may often hesitate to do so for fear the person may be offended or not appreciate such offer, regardless of its kindness or loving intent.”

Jack responded: “I used to think about that, but no one has ever refused to accept the pin or failed to express appreciation when I give them one. It has strengthened my belief that, down deep, most people inherently are good.”

Perhaps our greatest problem in America today stems from turning away from God and the Christian principles upon which our nation was founded. There are those among us who would take God out of our government, our schools and our daily lives, under the guise of “separation of Church and State” - more from their ideological standpoint than the Constitution of the United States, I think. The Constitution mentions no separation of Church and State.

Ironically, the night before the meeting, as I was deciding on what to say in that invocation, I searched my computer for the copy I had previously saved of George Washington’s prayer at his first inauguration. It was brief and beautiful and, considering the terrible trials his new nation would face, asked for God’s help and protection for the fledgling United States of America.

For some reason, I couldn’t find that particular prayer, so I wrote my own based on my gratitude for God’s benevolence to all of us and beseeched Him for continued blessings and protection of our nation in these perilous times - from forces within and without.

The pin was a beautiful token of the occasion and a memorable birthday present.