Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Veteran

It bothers me.

I bothers me that, when I thank a Veteran, he is surprised.  Or that he cries.  Not because I thanked him, but because anyone thanked him. 

He didn't join the military to gain honors or acclaim.  Most of them joined out of a sense of duty, a desire to do what they considered the right thing and the choice to do whatever they could to contribute to the continuing freedom of what they considered a great nation.

When I see a Veteran, I shake his hand, tell him how much I appreciate his service and even ask what branch he was in or where he served.  They don't tell me much (it's mostly in passing, after all) but they proudly proclaim their branch of the military and unit they served in.  

Most of the time, they smile in gratitude for my gratitude.  Once in awhile, tears will fill their eyes that someone my age will make the effort to even show gratitude for what they did with something as simple as a handshake, a smile, and a quiet "thank you".   Sometimes, if family is nearby, tears will fill their eyes, too.  Because someone was grateful to an unsung hero.
They don't want a parade. 

They don't desire fame.

They don't need ceremonies.

They deserve respect for sacrifices made.

They deserve honor for services rendered.

They deserve a long line of grateful people shaking their hand and saying a quiet "thank you" until it's no longer a surprise.

If you see a Veteran (they ususally wear a baseball hat or a windbreaker or something else with the name of their unit or ship, something will give them away) stop and shake his hand.  Ask him where he served, what unit he was with, and thank him for that service.  If you can, pay for his meal. You can do this anonymously, I have, and what's a few dollars more for someone who offered his life for yours?  Just ask the waitress for his ticket and tell her to only let him know it's from a grateful citizen.  He'll be thrilled and it will make your day to have given a little gratitude to such a quiet, brave man.

They all went to hell and back for us. 

Appreciate them while we still have them.

Thank them while we still have the time.

"In Old Glory's depths I see
     The lives all spent on me and thee.
Bravest men, beloved sons,
     Immortalized.... Forgotten ones.

Those Warriors of forgotten days,
     Men of deepest mem'ries haze,
Once fought for us across the sea
     To keep their love'd country free.

Some say they went because they must,
     Some say because of wander-lust.
But, most of all, the Warrior went
     To save us from tyrannic bent.

The colors that Old Glory shows,
     Vibrant hues with which it glows,
Blue and white, they stand to me
     As Freedom's own, sweet purity.

The color, tho', that shines most bright,
     And wraps itself around the sight,
Stands for the bloody price they paid.
     Their lives, for Freedom, gladly trade."