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President's Column

By Ronald L. Schmeits, President

Experience A Life Of Duty

Spring has finally arrived. The weather’s getting warmer, school’s winding down and baseball season is underway. Barbecues, picnics, fireworks and family fun are right around the corner.

As we enjoy the blessings of the season and our freedom, it’s easy to forget that halfway around the world, courageous men and women are risking—and giving up—their lives so that we can enjoy our lives.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to a new project called NRA Life of Duty. It’s our way of honoring those who serve our country—not just our armed forces, but police, firefighters, emergency personnel, everyone in uniform who puts him- or herself in harm’s way to keep us safe.

We want to give them the recognition, respect and honor they unquestionably deserve, both from their peers in service and especially from civilians.

To that end, I urge you to go online and visit the NRA Life of Duty website (, which hosts many specially produced video features and a digital magazine, NRA American Warrior. Visit the site today to see some truly moving and inspirational tributes to public service and civic duty, particularly the Patriot Profiles videos.

The latest, “From Mogadishu to Nashville,” tells Keni Thomas’s dramatic story of heroism and dedication. He was a young Army Ranger serving in Africa when his unit came under fire—a combat encounter chronicled in the feature film “Black Hawk Down.”

Since retiring from active service, he has successfully pursued a country music career. Now he uses that platform to give motivational speeches at schools and community centers across America.

He’s traveled the world to perform for our troops, even taking helicopters into remote, mountainous locations, where he sings and plays acoustic guitar for isolated units. As Keni puts it, “I don’t get to carry M4 rifles anymore. What I get to carry is guitars and a microphone.”

“Last Defense” is a stirring tribute to the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that was formed in response to the hateful, outrageous activities of those who use military funerals as a platform to spread their poisonous message. The Patriot Guard ride their motorcycles wherever they’re needed across the country, helping to give fallen soldiers and their families the peace, privacy and dignity they deserve.

Perhaps my favorite is “A Veteran’s Memories,” a beautiful look at the life and service of Walter Hughes, who at 18 years old parachuted behind enemy lines in World War II Holland. Now in his 80s, Hughes took the time to sit down and tell us his story. His first jump as a paratrooper was during Operation Market Garden, the war’s largest Airborne operation, and his ensuing experiences were marked by bravery and heroism.

Those are just a sampling of the videos currently offered. A new Patriot Profile is added each and every month to tell the stories no one else is telling, so be sure to check it often.

NRA Life of Duty offers many ways to support our servicemen and women, whether through service aid societies, scholarships or even by providing an NRA Life of Duty membership to a military member.

Our armed forces do the most selfless and dangerous work there is, for the most noble and vital cause there is—and they do it for you and me. They expose themselves to unimaginable horrors without asking for recognition or praise. They carry out their orders without question or complaint. Their experiences provide them with a perspective on the costs and value of freedom that the rest of us rarely if ever experience.

I think that’s something that every one of us should give thanks for whenever we’re given the chance.

At the end of April, when we join together in Pittsburgh for the NRA 140th Annual Meetings & Exhibits to celebrate our uniquely American freedoms, we’ll give all uniformed military, law enforcement, fire department and paramedic personnel free admission to the Exhibit Hall—a longstanding NRA tradition.

If you’re a veteran or actively serving, I urge you to stand up and be recognized in Pittsburgh. If not, please take a minute to say hello, shake these heroes’ hands, thank them for their service and tell them what your freedom means to you.

In the meantime, please take a few minutes to browse the NRA Life of Duty channel on the Internet. I hope that, like me, you’ll find it interesting and inspirational.