What Is A Veteran?

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 metal in a 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 safe wear no badge or emblem. You can’t tell by looking. So what is Vet?

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than a wooden plank, whose over-grown frat-boy behavior now is far outweighed a hundred times on the cosmic scale by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel in 1951.

She is the nurse who fought against all futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Danang, Vietnam in 1969.

He is the POW who went away one person, spent 5 years in a North Vietnam prison, and came back another and is now homeless addicted to heroin due the constant torture he was subjected to for those 5 years.

He is the Drill Instructor that has never seen combat – but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into soldiers.

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in 1990 in Saudi Arabia during Operation Iraqi Freedom sweating two gallons of sweat a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins his ribbons and medals on with a prosthetic hand he lost during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.

He is the career quartermaster who always made sure that the supplies were always there when needed and then watched the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at your local supermarket – palsied now and aggravatingly slow – who helped liberate a Nazi death camp 67 years ago - and who wishes all day long that his wife of 45 years was still alive to hold him at night when the nightmares come.

He is the young marine who lost his leg while giving food to Iraqi refugees when an Iraqi terrorist lobbed a grenade into that crowd of children.

He is the Reserve Air Force TSGT who lost his life from an IED in Afghanistan while in a convoy bringing building supplies to Kandahar for a school that would have female students for the first time in many years.

He is the former Army Special Forces NCO whose wounds in combat prevent continued active service so he attends graduate school to study National Security to contribute to his country in a different way - and never mentions his heroic actions in combat that resulted in his being awarded the Silver Star.

Always remember that our veterans at the time of their service and their sacrifice were then America’s most valued treasures, our children, and our future. And they gave all. We need to honor them and their service every day, not just on Veteran’s Day.


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