Vets to America: Thank YOU

As we approach Veterans Day, it’s gratifying today to see the way our military men and women are appreciated by the citizenry from the talk show hosts who continually thank veterans who call in for their service to the people in uniform in airports or other public places who are thanked by strangers who recognize their commitment to our nation. This is quite a turnaround from the treatment returning Viet Nam era vets received though they bore no responsibility for the policies that put them in harm’s way and only strove to do their duty.

But those of us who served also want to say thank you – thank you to America for all we gained from serving our country in uniform.

Mine may have been the last generation that never thought of military service as an option but a natural duty we owed our country for the freedoms we enjoyed. We grew up with what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” that fought World War II hearing the stories of our parents’ service. It never occurred to us that we would not serve.

For many young men coming from small towns all over the country the military was the first step into a larger world. It turned directionless teenagers into capable young men, often with responsibilities that could be the difference between life and death. A mistake by a 19-year-old aircraft mechanic could cause the loss of and aircraft and flight crew. The military is a serious business taken seriously by those who serve.

The military experience opened their minds to new possibilities. Many who enlisted discovered capabilities of which they were unaware and took on new challenges that led to great opportunities for success. Millions of young men found a greater purpose that led to college and a more fulfilling life.

It is a loss to the character of our citizenry that all young men do not have the opportunity to serve today. Even if they wanted to do so, there are simply more young men today than the military can use given the resources and positions available.

The military cannot be fully understood by those who have not served. There is the unique experience of boot camp that turns callow youth into self-confident young men. There is a permanent stamp on their character that is with them the rest of their lives. Those unable to serve will miss something.

For most that never see combat, the military is almost like a normal job except the clothes are different and there are certainly distinctive protocols between the ranks. In their off-duty hours, they are engaged in the normal activities of young men everywhere – sports, hobbies and partying at the local bar whether in San Diego or Berlin.

But men in uniform always know in the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds that they could be called upon to fight and possibly die for our country. It gives them just a little different appreciation for the value of our liberty and freedom. All, at some point, were willing to die for those principles.

So from those of us who served, thank you America.

Thank you to our Founding Fathers who pledged their fortunes, their lives and their “sacred honor” to establish our nation.

Thank you to the millions of men who served before us for your courage repeatedly exhibited in defending our founding principles and freedom – even at a time that pitted brother against brother to preserve our nation.

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