Memorial Day, May 27, 2024, is a Day of Remembrance, set aside to honor our fallen military heroes. Many Americans will be celebrating, traveling, or enjoying a cookout.  Any time we have a chance to have a long weekend and a paid holiday, it’s a good thing.  However, let’s not forget that this is a chance to say a prayer of thanks for the heroes who gave their all.  This day was called Decoration Day and celebrated on May 30th for decades.  But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, establishing Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend for federal employees.

So how will you be spending Memorial Day? I’m looking forward to seeing many flags flying, and placed on gravesites.  Retailers will be offering Memorial Day Sales for shoppers.  No matter what you do on Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember and appreciate your blessings and the sacrifices that were made to ensure you have the freedom to enjoy.  I love to watch the televised National Memorial Day Concert to honor our fallen heroes. Gary Sinise, also known as Lt. Dan from the movie Forrest Gump, and other celebrities make it their mission to support our troops and honor our fallen heroes.  This is truly heartwarming. Hollywood actors who don’t mind acknowledging their love for God and country and are proud Americans? Now that really inspires me. It reminds me of the late, great Charlie Daniels and how he shared his belief in God and Country.

Charlie was one of the many singers, songwriters, and musicians who lived and performed in the Nashville area. He made an impact, not only in the music industry but in the lives of thousands of veterans and country music fans. Do you ever wonder if you will impact others with your testimony? Everyone may not have a platform as big as Charlie’s, but we can and will impact others if we share our faith.

As it says in the Holy Bible: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.” (Luke 8:16 KJV)

First time I saw Charlie Daniels in person, I was heading to my car after work.  I noticed someone standing next to a large shiny charter bus parked near the baggage service entrance at the Nashville Airport. He was wearing an enormous white hat, jeans, and cowboy boots, and he was hard to miss. I must have been staring because he smiled and said, “Howdy,” tipping his hat as I walked past. I remember thinking, “That’s Charlie Daniels. He is one of the good guys.”  Then feeling my face flush bright red, embarrassed that he caught me staring.

I saw Charlie perform on stage and television several times after that day, but never had the pleasure of knowing him personally. After my husband and I moved closer to Murfreesboro, we joined the World Outreach Church. Charlie Daniels also attended, and at one of the services, he jumped on stage with his fiddle and played “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” My previous church was Southern Baptist, and I don’t recall that being sung by the choir, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the Baptist Hymnal. I loved it!

Later, at the 2011 Easter Sunday Service held at Middle Tennessee State University, Charlie sang it again and then followed with “He’s Alive.” He was accompanied by the church choir, and they nearly “blew the roof off” the arena. You could feel the presence of the Holy Ghost in the building!

One Sunday morning, Charlie was sitting in the pew across from us and was talking with the Pastor. My daughter whispered, “I think that is Charlie Daniels.” His wife Hazel was sitting next to him, and he was wearing jeans, tennis shoes, a plaid shirt, and a red baseball hat with his white ponytail sticking out under the cap, a perfect match to his white beard. They looked like a little old couple from the country, and I wouldn’t have recognized Charlie dressed in his normal street clothes if my daughter had not pointed him out.

After Charlie passed on to his heavenly home, I saw the following letter posted online (I don’t recall who posted it or if it was Facebook or a blog). This letter confirmed what I thought about Charlie, and after reading it, I respected him even more. I saved it on my phone to share with others to honor Charlie and his legacy.


I would like to clear up a few points about my addressing your class at commencement exercises, points which I feel have been distorted by a few overzealous, uninformed, pseudo-journalists.

My professional life is a matter of documented public record and easily obtainable. No need to discuss that.

Having been born in Wilmington, I consider it an honor to be asked to speak to you on one of the biggest days of your lives, and I accepted the honor with gratitude and humility. I cannot speak to you of lofty academic ideals nor scholarly pursuits because I have neither entree nor credential for that world.

The truth is I come to you from the street, from reality, the very same place you’re all headed if you plan to make a living in this ever-changing, difficult, show-me world, and when your college days are just a memory and your diploma hangs beneath dusty glass on some office wall, you will still have to deal with that world on its own terms every working day of your lives.

Let me tell you why I thought I was invited to speak to your graduating class. My career spans almost 40 years and you don’t go through 40 years of hard work and unrelenting competition without learning a few things.

My qualifications are humble but extensive and diverse. I’ve stood at the 38th Parallel and looked across into the hostile eyes of the North Korean border guards. I’ve been catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Adriatic Sea and ridden across the frozen wastes of Greenland on an Eskimo dog sled. I’ve taken a hammer and chisel to the Berlin Wall and performed with symphony orchestras. I’ve had conversations with Presidents and walked the halls of Congress lobbying for legislation in which I believe. I’ve flown on the Concorde and acted in motion pictures.

I’ve seen the royal palaces of Europe and the hovels of Hong Kong.

I’ve seen the Mona Lisa and stared in awe at the timeless works of Vincent Van Gogh.

I’ve gathered cattle in the Big Bend country of Texas and met some of the wisest people I know at campfires in the middle of nowhere. I was privileged to have conversations with Alex Haley and Louis L’Amour. I’ve appeared with The Rolling Stones, worked in the recording studio with Bob Dylan and two of the Beatles. I’ve been married to the same woman for over thirty years and raised a son who did, by the way, go to college. I’ve kept 20 people gainfully and steadily employed for over 20 years.

I am not a man of letters; I readily admit to that. But is being a man of letters the only thing which qualifies one to speak to a group of men and women who are about to enter the real world? My world.

My address will not be delivered in the beautiful strains of poetry of a Maya Angelou or with the technical expertise of a Tom Clancy, but I can tell you where some of the land mines are hidden, the shortest path to the top of the mountain, and the quickest way down. Been there, done that.

Thank you and God bless the Class of ’96.

Charlie Daniels, February 8, 1996

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The impact Charlie Daniels had by sharing his testimony was bigger than the music he made. The pastor of World Outreach Church, Allen Jackson, told a story about Charlie and Hazel Daniels traveling to Jerusalem with a tour group from the church. When Pastor Jackson was speaking in Israel one night, Charlie walked on stage with his fiddle and began to play the Jewish National Anthem, Hatikvah, which translates to “The Hope” in English. The audience began to weep as he played, and then Charlie switched to “I’ll Fly Away O Glory, I’ll Fly Away.” The band he was playing with in Jerusalem had been taught to play country music only a few minutes before taking the stage. When he got to the end of the song, Charlie said;

“One morning, not too far away, I’m going to walk out on my porch in Tennessee, lift my head up to the sky, and I will fly away.” 

Pastor continued; “Not long after that, I got the call and was told that Charlie had gotten up that morning and asked Hazel to help him out on the porch. And Hazel said he then lifted his head and flew away.”

Charlie Daniels went to be with the Lord on July 6, 2020. He was a singer, musician, and songwriter who won numerous awards, including Dove Awards, Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, Canadian Country Music Association Awards, and he wrote songs recorded by famous artists like Elvis Presley. He played on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album, founded the famed Volunteer Jam which raised funds for various charities, and founded The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project, a nonprofit fundraiser for veterans. He was also an inductee in the Country Music Hall of Fame. More importantly, he was a strong Christian who didn’t mince words when it came to his faith.

I started following Charlie’s Twitter feed a few years before he passed, and I loved how outspoken he was about his political beliefs and especially about his faith in God.

“I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ…if I can’t take him with me, I don’t want to go.” Charlie used to end his social media posts on Twitter (now called X) with “Let’s Make the Day Count.”

In many ways, Charlie was like a lighthouse—standing firm in his beliefs and shining his light for all to see. He didn’t hide his faith; he let it guide his actions and illuminate his path. Each of us has the potential to be a lighthouse in someone’s life, offering guidance, hope, and light in times of darkness. Let’s take a page from Charlie’s book and “make the day count” by living out our faith boldly and compassionately, impacting those around us in ways we may never fully realize.

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