George Washington once said that: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation".
Merriam-Webster's defines VETERAN as:
1. A person who is long experienced or practiced in an activity or capacity: a veteran of political campaigns.
2. A person who has served in the armed forces: "Privilege, a token income . . . were allowed for veterans of both world wars" Mavis Gallant.
3. An old soldier who has seen long service.
1. Having had long experience or practice: a veteran actor.
2. Of or relating to former members of the armed forces: veteran benefits.
Etymology: Latin veteranus, from veteranus, adjective, old, of long experience, from veter-, vetus old
Well, that's the "basics" of it, but the nomenclature goes FAR BEYOND the initial definition.
(borrowed from ForceRecon.com webite - with pride)
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.
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 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)
We should cherish every single one of them, for they shall not be with us forever,
Every time we see a police officer calm a crying child, or see a firefighter carry a loved one from a burning building, we should take a moment to thank them for their service as well. They are every bit as deserving OF that thanks.
They are ALL veterans.
If you were to ask any one of them...
Doesn't matter what you wear on your head, your shoulder, or your chest.
Doesn't matter what your nationality, religion, race, or political belief is.
Doesn't matter how, or where, or in what country you serve or have served.
What DOES matter is that THEY give a damn.
...So that you should never have to.
Every day, we lose more WW2 vets to age, and soon, we will have none left to describe what they did, and why they did it.
Our Korean vets are aging as well. And our Vietnam vets are reaching retirement age.
Just because no one remains to tell a story, does NOT mean that the story goes untold.
Relish the time you have with our veterans, in whatever conflict they have served (or are serving).
Talk to them, allow them the honor of helping you to understand who they are, and what they do (and have done).
We only formally honor these brave individuals once a year, but I would maintain that every day of every year should have a like sense of purpose...of significance if we, the people of this great nation are to fully appreciate the price many of these servicemen and women have paid, and are paying every day that the rest of you draw breath.
If you were to ask them what it's like to be honored in such a way, many would just say that's what was expected of them, and that they do what they do for this COUNTRY (her people and her flag), and for what it all represents...nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
We should not treat today (and our veterans) as some fine piece of porcelain that we take down once a year to admire, and then place back upon the shelves of our lives to gather dust the other 364 days.
We need to make every one of these men and women KNOW that we are behind them 100%, and that we do ackowledge their participation in the furthering of democracy and liberty across the globe, and not just in our own backyards.
Now if it sounds like my soapbox is creaking a bit, that's too bad.
This is just what I have been brought up to understand, and it's what I have believed since childhood.
My father passed in 1978, and I miss being able to enjoy with him this special day of recognition.
I can't just pull up a chair, sit down, and have him tell me about his service.
But I DO enjoy his memory, and I DO have his photos, and do what I feel he would want me to do.
I will fly my flag proudly this day, and honor those with whom I feel a kinship.
Everyone in every family either has or knows someone who is or was a veteran, so you can see that we're all kind of one very, very large family, and we owe it to our vets to never forget who they are, what they do, and how unselfishly they have given every ounce of devotion to our nation, our flag , and our people.
Some have even given more.
Many have given all.
And if this puts a lump in your throat or gets your eyes watering...good.
It's supposed to.
You "get it".
Honor such as theirs deserves to illicit such a response in every one of us.
So to every man or woman...every Soldier, sailor, airman, or marine...every coast guardsman, national guardsman...to every firefighter or law-enforcement officer, no matter where you find yourself this day...
I thank YOU
...and I salute YOU.
May God watch over and protect you and your families.