What Is A Veteran?
(Marine Corp 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 safe wear no badge or emblem. You
can't tell a vet just by looking. What is a vet?
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
sobbing 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
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
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 he 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 most cases it will mean more
than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
Again, two little words that mean a lot to any Veteran -- "THANK
Addendum -- John 15:13 (KJV) "Greater love hath no
man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."