Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We Can Never Say 'Thank You' Enough

At the 11th hour in the 11th month in 1918 the First World War stopped. Silence was heard all across the front lines as the guns were finally unloaded and put away. From that day forward our nation has honored their military service men and women. Those WWI veterans and the millions of others who followed in the painful last half of the 20th century are due our ever lasting gratitude. We can never say "Thank you" enough to our veterans.

Veterans come in all ways and each has their own story to tell. Some braved the beaches of Normandy, endured the hell of Bataan, fired their last ammo at Chosin Reservoir, repelled the enemy at Khe Sanh, or diffused IEDs along some forlorn road in Iraq. Other veterans never fired a weapon against an enemy or suffered the terror of an enemy artillery shelling. They fixed trucks, ran bulldozers, cooked meals and kept the paperwork flowing. Yet they too, served to protect our nation from the threat of enemies.

What many may not fully understand, if they haven't been in the military, is the act of service, during war or peace, begins with a signature on a line, enlisting or commissioning, one's self to the whims and ways of the political world. The service member pledges their life in the service of their country. Our military is subject to the variations of world powers, who may set in motion terrible wars and bloody battle fields. They in effect, roll the dice, and hope during their tour, they will not be asked to face down an enemy in bloody combat. They are the last ones to hope for war. Yet, they train to be ready. During peacetime the training is intense and as realistic as can possibly be. From responding to a submarine's general quarters klaxon, practicing beach landings, building fortifications, to performing night carrier landings our military trains hard to be ready should peace fail.

All of our uniformed military work days, nights, holidays, through every kind of weather and overcome every possible challenge. They miss kids being born, a child's first steps or their first words. They move families around the country at the printing of orders, to places they might not have chosen for themselves. It is, "Yes, Sir!" and off they go. They might be sipping a beer on Saturday night and get an alert call, gather their gear and report to their units not knowing if it is the real thing or just another training drill.

I have an unique aspect of my service in the Army. My father was a Viet Nam era vet as I am. Neither of us saw combat or stepped foot in 'Nam'. But we both were deeply affected by it. He, as a company First Sargent assigned to a rear detachment, at the start of the big war build up in 68. I as new Butter Bar (2nd Lieutenant), sworn in one month before the official end of the war in 75. He saw the first Soldiers coming home from Nam, busted spirits, drugged up, and no pride. I found an Army that was shell shocked and demoralized from being "beat", as well as, dangerously underfunded,untrained,and unready. The term PTDS hadn't been invented yet. Thinking back, many of my senior officers and NCOs obviously had the symptoms.

Today, a lady asked me if I was a veteran. I told her yes I was. I said that I hadn't given as much as some, but did as much as I was able. I think many of us veterans feel that way. Some gave their last full measure of life, some, like my self, gave all I could give that I was asked. She thanked me for my service. It felt good. It was then I realized we can never say thank you enough to the men and women who serve in our armed forces. They have given us our very freedoms and protect us from our enemies. Their gift is truly immeasurable, beyond words, or expression. The best we can do is honor them always with the deepest respect they richly deserve.

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