Sunday, November 14, 2004

Belated post about veterans

Veteran's Day was several days ago, and I rarely get things in on time anyway, but I received a thoughtful email about veterans and decided I should post it.

I actually don't mind missing the holiday decreed from on high by our government - the post is about veterans, not about what the government tells us to think and celebrate:


(Attributed to a Marine Corps chaplain, Father Denis Edward O'Brian)

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a
jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence
inside them, a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the
leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in
the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America
wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking. What is

A vet is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia
sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers
didn't run out of fuel.

A vet is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose
overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic
scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th Parallel.

A vet is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep
every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

A vet is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or
didn't come back at all.

A vet is the drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved
countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account punks and gang members
into marines, airmen, sailors, soldiers and coast guardsmen, and
teaching them to watch each other's backs.

A vet is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and
medals with a prosthetic hand.

A vet is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals
pass him by.

A vet is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose
presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the
memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with
them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

A vet is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now
and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who
wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the
nightmares come.

A vet is an ordinary and yet extraordinary human being, a person who
offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his
country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to
sacrifice theirs.

A vet is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and
is nothing more that the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the
finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just
lean over and say, "Thank You." That's all most people need, and in
cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or
were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

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