Veterans Day November 11th, 2013

Thanks to each and every one of you who have served our nation in the military!  

I am the son of a soldier, a soldier and the father of a soldier.  I know many who are serving right now, both officers and non-coms, those who are at the tip of the spear, those who work behind the scenes and even a chaplain who goes where the danger is to bring hope to those living a life of peril for the sake of God and country and loved ones.

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When I was drafted, many were fleeing to Canada to escape the draft.  My father offered to move to Canada, selling his home and business, to start a new business up North so I would not be alone if I fled.  He had fought in Korea, but nevertheless he knew I was opposed to the idiotic war in Vietnam and had been since grade school.  All my life I had longed to go to college and even had a scholarship which was all for naught because of a ridiculous piece of legislation.

What I didn't know until this year was that my mother told him she would never respect a son that ran away from his duty.  She never said anything like that to me.  I think he was allowing me to make a decision strictly on merit and not for any other reason.   She did not try to use guilt to sway my decision but she did not like his idea.  For you see, I was part of that one year "draft college freshmen" legislation that was killed within a year after the public outcry forced politicians to overturn it.   Too late for me.  I put my loyalty to my country above my disgust at the idiotic LBJ-invented Vietnam meatgrinder and accepted my fate.  

The military was full of criminals and drug dealers and other assorted miscreants who were told, "Army or jail."  It was full of unhappy college freshman with their dreams yanked out from under them.  It also included many patriotic people who just wanted to serve the nation no matter the circumstances.  You could have a valedictorian on your left and a guy with a long criminal record of violence and theft on your right.   I met homosexuals and farm boys and guys from inner city gangs and guys that had never seen snowfall and guys that had accents I'd only heard in movies.  Then after training I met girls who fled abusive homes,  girls who had plans to see the world, girls who thought the military would give them chances that the civilian world never would and girls who just wanted to be around a lot of guys.  It was an education I never would have received in college!

Now I am so very glad I made the right choice.  The military grew me up in ways college life never could have and exposed me to people and lifestyles I did not previously understand.  I came to understand a lot about the drug abusers and pushers, those who grew up in the ghetto, those who were making an attempt to leave a life of crime behind them and a few who saw the Army as just another chance to rip people off...and many who didn't know what else to do with their lives.  I also met many men of valor and honor, men who had faced warfare and death for the sake of the rest of the nation, men who made good role models.  Being a vet now means a great deal to me, for I am glad that young and foolish me chose Army green rather than abandoning the great nation in which I was born.  I was quite good at being an idiot in my youth (aren't we all?) but that time I chose well.

So thank you to any of you who have served in any capacity!  You are those who make everyone else able to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, for you are the brave who allows the rest of us to be free!!!

"What is A Vet ?"

What is a Veteran? 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.  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. They are 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. 

"What is A Vet?"

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 country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs. 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 .Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.  It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.  It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.  It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag. 

- Father Denis Edward O'Brien / USMC