Veterans Day. For most of us, this often-overlooked holiday means little more than a few small-town parades, historical television specials and grandfatherly octogenarians gathering at the local VFW to swap old war stories.

But if that’s all this day is to us, we’re missing out. This special day is about honor, duty and lives that have been given for the cause of freedom. It’s about ordinary people — brothers and sisters and neighbors and classmates — who sacrifice their time, talents and personal ambitions 365 days a year so we can live our lives in peace and security.

And 23 of these everyday heroes serving in the military are also studying here at BJU.

Kent Funchess, a sophomore business administration major, has been in the U.S. Army for 7 ½ years and has served as an intelligence analyst for the 82nd Airborne in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Funchess says he always wanted to be in the military. So after three semesters in college, he left school and joined the Army. His most recent deployment brought him to Afghanistan, where he served with a Ranger Battalion for five months.

This was a rewarding experience for him, he says, because it gave him the opportunity to use the skills that he had specifically trained for.

“In the Army you never do your job,” he says jokingly. But with the Ranger battalion, Funchess was able to use his intelligence training for the safety of the soldiers he worked with. He recalls one night when he was able to help track down a member of the Afghan police who had shot one of the U.S. soldiers on guard duty.

“It was rewarding because I was able to directly affect the safety of my guys,” Funchess says.

But life in the Army does not always feel courageous.

“Deployment is hard,” Funchess notes. He says it’s hard to maintain relationships on deployment, because you’re not only away from your family and friends, but the new friends you make are constantly coming and going.

“It’s a constant change of people,” Funchess says. “You get close to people fast, and then they leave.”

Dakota Price, a junior Bible major, joined the Army Reserve last September. He says one of the hardest parts of being in the military is the lack of spiritual support.

“There’s not a lot of Christian community,” he says. “You can’t say you’re joining the military to improve your spirituality.”

But despite the lack of spiritual environment, Price says being in the military teaches character. He’s learned to personally apply the seven army values — loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. And he takes these seriously.

“When you have a uniform on, you have an obligation,” he says.

Senior Bible major David Nance hopes to use his Christian testimony as a light to those serving in the armed forces. Nance came to Christ through the preaching of Steve Nutt with BIMI Missions while serving in the Marine Corps as a radio technician in Okinawa, Japan.

Since then, he’s had a strong desire to reach service members for Christ and has been involved in military ministries both in Okinawa and Quantico, Virginia, where he served in geospatial intelligence.

Graduating in May, Nance plans to return to BJU for an M. Div. and is considering enrollment in the Navy chaplaincy program after that.

Nance has learned a lot from his military career: leadership, honor, integrity. And he sums up his experience with one word: “duty.”

“And not a chagrining duty, either,” he adds. “I’ve proudly done it, and still do. Next to my salvation, it’s the best decision I ever made.”

Funchess, too, takes pride in the service he’s done for his country, and he does so with humble respect for those who came before him. “Wars that we’ve been in, a lot of people want credit for it, but the guys in Vietnam and World War II had it so much harder than we do.”

All in all, Funchess is grateful for the opportunity to serve his country. “It’s definitely fulfilling to feel like I’ve done my part,” he says. “It changes your perspective, and you’re definitely more grateful for what you have.”