November 11, 2009
We have visible memorials standing through out this country as well as many countries abroad, honoring those who have served and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We can pick a veteran out of a crowd of people when they wear a certain hat, a pin or a uniform on days like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and Fourth of July, but would we be able to identify a veteran at other times?
Some veterans carry the obvious signs of their service – a missing limb, a deep jagged scar or that certain look in their eyes. So, who is a veteran?
He’s my dad that stormed Omaha Beach at 19 years of age. He’s my uncle that flew 52 successful missions as an Air Force pilot over Italy. She’s my daughter-in-law that served in Dessert Storm, slept on the ground and yes, ate a bug or two. She’s my best friend who served 22 years in the Air Force before retiring but continues to serve as a leader in Soldiers Angels. She’s my niece who decided to join the Army Reserves and after weeks of being told she’d never make it through, graduated at the top of her class. Other veterans carry their evidence inside of them with pins holding a bone together, shrapnel in a leg or possibly a greater kind of inner steel – their heart and soul forged together in the hell of adversity.
It’s impossible to know who is a veteran just by looking at the outside. Maybe it’s the family doctor or nurse you see in the office that saved countless lives in Viet Nam; the older person who bags groceries aggravatingly slow but helped free a Nazi Death Camp. He’s the homeless person living on that street corner; a POW who left as the person you knew but came back someone you didn’t … or not at all. They are the anonymous heroes that lie in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers that forever will represent and preserve the memory of all those anonymous heroes who died unrecognized on the battlefields or in the darkness of the deep oceans. He’s the drill instructor that never saw combat but has turned “couch potatoes” and gang members into the strongest Marines and taught them to watch each other’s backs. A veteran is an ordinary but yet extraordinary individual who has offered his best years in the service of his country and sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrificed theirs. They are the greatest testimony to the greatest nation ever known.
Father Denis O’Brien sums up a veteran so very well:
“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 gave 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 protestor to burn the flag.”
Thanks to all of our veterans who have served this great nation and may God bless and protect all of you and continue to give you the strength and courage needed to keep us all safe and free.