What is a Veteran?
Some veteran's bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in their 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 safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a Vet just by looking.
So, what is a Veteran?
He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating to gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
He's 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.
She, or he, is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
He is the POW who went away one person and came back another or didn't come back at all.
He is the drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no account rednecks and gang members into soldiers and teaching them to watch each other's backs.
His is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
He is the career logistician who stands in the crow, watching the ribbons and medals pass him by.
He 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.
He 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.
He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being. A person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his/her country and who sacrificed his/her ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine and a savior and a sword against the darkness and is nothing more than 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 most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
Two little words mean a lot; THANK YOU!
So, on this Veteran's Day, take a moment to thank a veteran. Shake their hand, give them a hug, or buy them a cup of coffee. To our Vietnam Veteran's, THANK YOU and WELCOME HOME!
May God bless the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, both past and present, their families and the United States of America!
Sepius Exertus, Semper Fidelis, Frater Infinitas
Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever