Monday, November 11, 2013

The U. S. Military Veteran

Who is the US military veteran? He or she is a rather unique individual. Some were called up, drafted, some volunteered. Many, if they are honest did not want to go to war or take on a military career, but they knew they had too. It was their duty and they were willing to do it. Most all hated war. But, they loved their country.

They endured weeks of basic training, undoing all of the comforts, and privileges of a free society. They endured constant yelling and insults from drill sergeants, meals eaten in 5 minutes or less, awkward uniforms, sounds, roars and smells, aches in places they never knew could ache and the deepest pain of all, homesickness. But, they became lean mean fighting machines. They found themselves in perhaps, the greatest army the world has ever known.

Fresh out of Basic, often they were packed off to serve and fight in places with strange exotic names; places they never heard of like Iwo Jima, Anzio, Seoul, Da Nang, Kuwait, Fallujah, Kandahar. They would endure soaking rains, bitter cold, scorching desert heat, grit, poor sanitation. They would encounter numerous constant enemies, enemies such as flies, mosquitoes, gnats and diarrhea. They would eat meals, usually cold, from cans, plastic containers, with a side dish of stale crackers, all washed down with lukewarm water from a canteen that had probably seen better days.

For a few months to a few years, their lives were 10 percent sheer terror and 90 percent tedious boredom. They might receive one letter for every ten they wrote back home. Their letters were laced with pride in their unit, contempt for many of their officers, self doubt, jokes and longing for home and loved ones. They obeyed orders that seemed senseless and accepted battle plans that often seemed futile and tragically, sometimes were. They witnessed horrors too terrible to ever utter; things that human souls were never designed by their Creator to witness. They became cursed to re-live those nightmares over and over in the many years later in those sleepless, thousand hour nights when the demons of war come to ply their worst torment and cause the vet to question why it wasn't them who died instead of their comrade. It's an eternal question that only the God of Eternity can answer. Some lose a limb, some lose sanity. Most combat vets lost something.

They complete their duty and return back to so called normal life with its unique brand of stresses, demands, responsibilities, the kids, the spouse, the in-laws, taxes and the mortgage. They are rarely thanked, rarely recognized for what they did and life goes on. You'll probably pass one of these unique creatures on the street and never know it. They don't wear ribbons or special name tags to inform you. You might even work with one or live next door to one. They fought or served for your freedoms, for your security, your way of life. The only give away may be the fact they are always the one on the block flying the American flag for every little holiday. Yes, that guy or gal that causes the neighborhood association captain to wince.

So, if it's not too much trouble, take a little time out this Veteran's Day to thank a U. S. Service Vet if you have the privilege of knowing one. Shake their hand, buy them a meal, or hire one. But, at the very least, look them straight in the eye and say, "Thank you for your service to our country." You'd be surprised how many have yet to hear those words spoken sincerely. God bless our Vets. Happy Veteran's Day.