Many veterans of our wars have obvious signs of their service to their country, a missing limb, a jagged scar, an ear shot off. For others the wounds are not so visible, shrapnel that works its way out of an old wound in the dark of night, nightmares that make the dreamer sit up in a cold sweat. Maybe all the parts are there, yet a certain look in the eye says, “I’ve seen things I’d rather not talk about.”
Except in parades, when they wear old uniforms that no longer come together at the button holes, it’s sometimes hard to tell a veteran, yet he is your neighbor, the guy who fires up the grill and cooks hamburgers for the crowd on Memorial Day. He is the fellow down the road that loads up his family and takes off for the mountains when the snow is deep. He is your policeman, your fireman, your accountant. He’s the farmer out in the July fields dropping 1000 pound bales of hay from the bailer.
That old guy sacking groceries at the super market, the sports reporter chewing on his pencil, the tall good-looking car salesman, the businessman with a brief case in one hand, the lawyer pleading a case, the judge on the bench, the bus driver stopping to let school children off, they wear no badges yet they are all veterans. Veterans of wars that they did not start and some they did not win but every time that their country asked them to give, they stood prepared to give it all they had.
In short, veterans are just ordinary people and yet they have something that few others have. Veterans have the courage and the ability to be prepared to sacrifice ambition and even life itself so that their fellow countrymen will not have to sacrifice theirs.
Our oldest veterans, the ones who served in WW11 are dying off at the rate of 1500 a day. When you see one, shake his hand and say, “Thank you for saving the world.”
The war in Korea has been called “The Forgotten War” where around 54,000 Americans died fighting in the frigid, rain-soaked mountains. Some 8,000 soldiers are still missing after 50 years. Shake that vets’ hand and say, “Your war is not forgotten, you stemmed the red tide of Communism.”
Vietnam! How can that soiree in the jungles with blood-sucking leeches, children walking into camp with grenades strapped to their chests, and bamboo splinters and razor blades hidden in foxholes be called a war to defend America?
Veterans of that mishap need to know that we love them and that their war was an honorable war fought once more to repel Communism.
The Desert Storm, the first war fought on prime time, was short but we honor all those young men and women who answered their country’s call and stepped forward to win one for the world. And as the world turns, Iraq became a controversial war as is the brutal fighting in Afghanistan. Civilians safe at home are quick to take sides about why Americans are there at all and why our soldiers die in a foreign land. Whatever the answer may be, our troops know their duty and they go where they are sent. They are prepared to serve on the front line when called to do so. For every man and woman who steps up, the rest of us are eternally grateful.
Every Thanksgiving when the school children at Morgan Mill invite service men and women to come and share the meal they prepare for the community, old soldiers look at those young faces and remember their own youth and what it meant to serve.
Father Dennis Edward O’Brian, USMC once said, “It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
To that we say a simple but heartfelt, “Amen.”