Veteran’s Day has come again… the one day of the year that has been conveniently tucked away on our calendars to remind us to give a moment of our busy lives showing how we honor our many vets. What? A moment? How can our heartfelt respect and undying gratitude be conveyed to you in just a moment?
Veteran, you have gone through, in your lifetime, far more than most people realize. It is impossible to submit yourself to military service and not be, in some way, changed forever. You have seen things and you have done things that you never intended to see or do. You did them, though, because you CHOSE to serve your country in the military. You chose to go even when others chose to run away. Whether you enlisted eagerly or entered nervously as a draftee, you chose to go. There were some who could not go, so you went for them. There were, unfortunately, also those who WOULD not go but even they benefited because you went.
Of course, you had your own special reasons for going, guided to a great extent by the impulsiveness of your immature youth. Were you seeking adventure? Did deep rooted patriotism call you? Or was it a family history of serving that tugged at your loyalties? It doesn’t matter what your reason for going may have been. You chose to go. Then, even when military life turned out to be different than expected, you chose to stay. When you made your choice you were never guaranteed that you would make it back home alive. Many didn’t. Many gave their lives on foreign soil to prove that their choice, and yours, was not lightly made.
After intense training, after coming to a full realization of the perils you faced, after being taught to trust your leader and follow to whatever battleground you were lead… after all, you chose to stand firm and fight for your nation. Side by side with others who had made the same choice, you stood firm and showed the world what substance really unites these United States of America. Against whatever bully might be opposing our principles of freedom, you chose not to back down.
You chose… YOU chose.
You weren’t forced to stand for us but you chose to do it. It didn’t matter where you were called to stand… you went. Once there, you chose to fight valiantly. Whether in the farmlands of Europe, the rice paddies of Viet Nam or Korea, or the sands and mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan… once the threat was identified, you chose to stand and fight. Always, you were ready to defend our freedom at any price. Even if it meant forfeiting your own life so others could live, you were not only prepared but willing.
Perhaps most remarkable of all, though, is the choice you made when finally, you did come home. Whether you returned to cheering crowds or the chill of misguided protestors, you chose to not burden your loved ones with details of where your choices had taken you. You bore the pain, whether physical or mental, without inflicting it on others. In that, your bravery has lasted a lifetime. You have endured, with extreme integrity, the consequences of your choices.
Now, in this brief moment we have tucked away on a calendar as “Veteran’s Day” we, the people you made your choices for, want you to know this one thing:
Our appreciation is not brief. It cannot be trapped on one day of a calendar. Our deepest honor and unwavering gratitude will last throughout generations of free Americans. It will never die. We don’t know… can’t know… all you had to endure to pay for our freedom, but we do know that it was you who made the choice to keep us free.
For that, on this day and every day, we truly thank you.