Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Gift Given Freely

In thanks I write today. For a life of freedom, for a cost paid by our veterans. Many in the military today wonder if the folks back home support them. They wonder if they'll ever see that home again, and if they do- will they feel welcome, will they be honored as they should be or will they be shunned for being a soldier. Many have loved and lost our military men and women to a higher purpose. How can we ever repay that sacrifice, what can we do as individuals to show our utmost thanks and respect? By not only remembering to say thanks today...but every day. By acknowledging their life and efforts were not in vain. To always remember when encountering a vet, past and present...by humbling ourselves and offering a hug or handshake and a very firm, "THANK YOU!"
I have encountered such men and women before, at a gas station, in a restaurant-their hats tell a story, their license plates sometimes state their occupation or past military service. I always try to reach out to them...and always, every time- am met with tears of appreciation. It does not seem like an obligation, to open up this way-it is a tremendous opportunity to acknowledge the gift given freely so that I may freely live.

What is a vet?

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.
What is a vet?
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 the38th 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 slows 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.

By Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC


Anonymous said...

That's excellent. I'll be sending a lot of traffic your way today to read it.

Love, Rhi

Jayne said...

That is simply beautiful...