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With Veterans Day coming, remember to say 'thank you'

Published on -11/6/2013, 3:13 PM

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I tried for several weeks to write an article that could express what I believe about the veterans of our beautiful America. I read many tributes, logs and histories of our nations' wars.

As I tried to write what would be an expression of my feelings for those protectors of our homeland and world, I only could come up with words that were grossly inadequate. But my recurring thought was when I went with my husband on the Honor Flight in 2011. The memories of that wonderful trip still fill my heart. The most memorable is the photo I took of the Vietnam Wall. Reflected in the mirror-like image of those who served was the reflection of the many persons who were at that moment looking at that memorial. It brought to mind the many misconceptions, the variable opinions and the sadness that filled and still fills so many hearts. That photo reflected all of us, veterans or not, who are Americans yesterday and today and forever. We all are affected in one way or another by war -- if we serve in uniform, if we remain at home, or serve at the homefront. For as Americans, we truly are one nation, undivided, equal and together -- one people and one belief, or it should be so.

At a loss for words, I can only repeat what I wrote some time ago:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." -- John Stuart Mill

Each year on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, we honor our veterans. Who is that veteran? He or she might be our neighbor, our co-worker, our friend, our family member, those who serve at our American Legion and VFW services.

The American veteran is a man or woman who gives silent testimony of love for our country, our people, our way of life, and our freedom.

There are many ways to say "thank you" but none of them are adequate to express our gratitude to those who have given up so much to safeguard our freedoms. There is no way to give back time and memory to those who were not home for their child's birthday, their wedding anniversary, that ballgame when their son hit a home-run, or their favorite aunt's funeral they could not attend.

I found the writing below with its cry of thanks aptly expressing our feelings for our veterans and our troops.

What is a veteran?

"Some veterans bear the visible signs of their service ... a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others might carry 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 alloy, 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? He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day, making sure armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel. He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat boy behaviour is outweighed 100 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 every night sobbing for two long years in Danang. He is the POW who went away one person and came back another -- or didn't come back at all. He is the Quantico drill instructor who never has seen combat -- but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade riding Legionaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand. He is the career Quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by. He is the three anonymous heros in the Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery forever must preserve the memory of all the anonymous heros whose valor died 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 the Nazi death camps and who wishes all day long his wife still was alive to hold him when his nightmares come. He is an ordinary, and yet an extraordinary, human being. A person who suffered 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. Excerpt from: http://home.mindspring.com/~phil1180/id2.html.

Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations advisory committee.

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