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Why say thank you on Veterans Day?

Years ago I had a blog where I shared my thoughts on a number of topics, the military and veterans being prominent features.  I was going through that site today and came across this posting from Veterans Day 2009.  It seems to fit as well now as it did then and want to re-share it here.

Why say thank you on Veterans Day?

A man pays his respects at Fort Logan National Cemetery. (Tony's Takes)

A man pays his respects at Fort Logan National Cemetery. (Tony’s Takes)

We set aside Veterans Day to say ‘thank you’ to our veterans for their service and for the sacrifices they have made for us and our great nation.  Sometimes though, we forget exactly what veterans have done to deserve these thanks.

Veterans have served in God-forsaken hellholes from one end of the earth to the other.  They have roasted in 120+ degree heat in the Middle East, been drenched by unending rain in the jungles of Vietnam, and suffered frostbite in the bitter cold of the Ardennes Forest.

They have stood in lines dozens deep to eat, to see a doctor and even to use the bathroom.  They have labored for days with little or no sleep.  Men and women have launched dozens of bomb-laden aircraft from the deck of aircraft carriers in a matter of hours, stood watch over the DMZ in Korea where a state of war still exists and fought bloody battles for their very lives that lasted for days.

Sailors go months without seeing land, longing for the simple pleasure of setting foot on solid ground again.

Airmen load bombs well-aware of the harm they may cause but comforted by the knowledge their cause is just.

Soldiers spend weeks on missions where their only hot meal is an MRE eaten from their helmet, longing for some of their wife’s home cooking.

Coastguardsmen stand watch from the deck of a ship protecting a homeland unaware of the dangers lurking offshore.

Marines assault a beachhead running for their lives while watching their friends fall around them.

A sailor (the author) returns home from a six month deployment. (Tony's Takes)

A sailor (the author) returns home from a six month deployment. (Tony’s Takes)

Veterans have been separated from their friends and families for weeks, months and years.   They have missed birthdays, anniversaries, and the birth of their own children.  They have missed Christmas, the 4th of July, football games and even Veterans Day.

Our veterans have called home from a far off land and heard about the broken washer and the car that won’t start and been helpless to help their loved ones back home.  They have gotten the Red Cross message telling them about their dad dying unexpectedly and felt the anguish of having to choose between going home to honor him or staying in the field to fight with their comrades.  They have received ‘Dear John’ letters while on the other side of the world, crushing the one piece of home they were clinging to.

Veterans have returned home to a country which is foreign to them, a place that has seemingly moved on while they were stuck in time.  They have found children that hardly recognize them, spouses that grew accustomed to them not being around and friends and family that don’t understand them and cannot fathom what they have seen and done.

Some have returned home to tickertape parades and adoring crowds.  Others returned home only to be spat on and called despicable names.  Many return to no acknowledgement of what they have accomplished, no one there to simply say ‘welcome home.’

Veterans have struggled to return to a normal life, not even knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore.  Veterans throw themselves into their new lives with the same sense of honor, pride and dedication they served the country with.  Others still stand on a street corner and sleep under a bridge just looking for a helping hand while battling the demons that haunt their minds.  They go to Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts across the country in an effort to recapture some of the comradeship that was lost when they left the service.

They bear the scars of their service, some visible, some not.

The Thornton Veterans Memorial in Thornton, Colorado. (Tony's Takes)

The Thornton Veterans Memorial in Thornton, Colorado. (Tony’s Takes)

They have prosthetic legs to replace the ones blown off by an IED and a six inch scar across their belly where a German knife was plunged into it.  Some walk with a limp from a shattered ankle, can’t move an arm that is paralyzed or struggle to hear their grandchildren because of a bomb that exploded next to them ruining their hearing.

Veterans stand at attention and cry when the Star Spangled Banner is played, knowing the words by heart and the true meaning behind them.  Others though cannot watch fireworks on the 4th of July because the sight and sound frightens them and brings back memories they fight to bury and forget.

They break down when remembering holding their friend as he gasped his last breath on the battlefield.  They pray to God asking that He just make the images of the horrors they witnessed go away but knowing that they will return when they close their eyes.

When you think about what you are saying ‘thank you’ for, perhaps just think about some of these things that our veterans have done.  That simple act of saying ‘thank you’ takes on renewed meaning for you and will mean more to a veteran than he can ever say.

God bless you all, God bless the United States of America and God bless our veterans!

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