Being born on Flag Day in the year of our Lord nineteen and
hmmmm seems to have permeated my life with patriotism. On my feet, with hand over
heart when the National Anthem sounds, goosebumps hatch and a tear forms
when "Old Glory" waves. Involvement with the military in one way
or the other has spanned over 40 years. Nineteen of it as an Army wife,
over 16 years working for a USAF contractor.
I am very proud to have participated as a military wife.
I think my ex-father-in-love is some kind of special too
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. So, 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 the armored personnel
carriers didn't run out of fuel.
He 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.
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 Quantico drill instructor who has never
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 Legionnaire 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 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
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
country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to
He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he
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.
~ ~ ~Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC
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