Friday, November 11, 2011

Why We Say, "Thank You"....

They come from all walks of life.  Some are from wealthy families and have gone through ROTC training. Some are from less-affluent families and enlist because they want a job or to learn a trade.  They are a brilliant cross-section of Americans...and they are our military,  For years, we've been without a "draft" - it's all been voluntary.  Shortly before I turned 18, the government mandated that we would all have to sign up for Selective Service....however, we were never called.  There was no need.  Even when the country entered future wars, we did not begin drafting people into service.  Again, it's voluntary.  Imagine.  There are actually people that still see this as a valiant thing to do - fight for their country.  They enlist hoping, but knowing well, that they may be called into service and put in harm's way.  Yet the continue to enlist.  Yes, we are giving them a paycheck.  Has anyone ever looked at what we pay them?  We give them a trade or an education.  Fair enough - it's the least we can do.  We count on them, giving them nary a second thought most days, to protect us and our freedoms.  It always takes a day like today - Veteran's Day - for us to honor them.  We've gotten better, though...and for that, I'm sure they are appreciative.

We are getting better at shooing our appreciation more than once or twice a year.  We now see men and women in uniform and thank them, publicly, for giving to their country.  We thank them for their service whether they are active or retired....and that is a good thing.  We've come to show the appreciation they deserve.  I remember once, several years ago, that I attended a seminar in Charlotte, NC.  One of the speakers was a man I'll never forget.  He was tall, well-dressed in a suit, and spoke passionately.  he described his return from Vietnam and his return to life in Seattle, WA.  I remember how he told of walking through the airport, dressed in his freshly-pressed uniform, and recounting how one man actually spit on him.  Called him a baby-killer.  If you remember anything of that time, you know the stories are true.  I know, I wasn't a war.  It was a police action.  Our boys were there.  They were put in an untenable situation and asked to do unspeakable things.  they had no choice in being there.  They came home desperately needing help, both mentally and physically.  It was, in my opinion, a sad blemish and black mark on our society.  We treated the horribly.  This man told, later, how he then moved to an area near the Grand canyon.  He became a tour guide on the Snake River until one of his groups persuaded him to invest the meager money he had.  Now, after moving back into society, he is wealthy...fortunately.  His is an isolated tale, though.  We did less than what we could have....and we were hurtful to those that were called to duty.  One of the things I am proudest with this generation is that we've learned how to show our appreciation.

How many of us can imagine what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers went through in early wars?  Running through the streets of a city as it was being bombed, covering themselves, hoping they wouldn't get killed.  What about our fathers?  Running through jungles halfway around the world, hoping they wouldn't see leaves and branches shift just as the flash of a muzzle alerted them to their pending, almost certain death.  better still, what of our sons and daughters?  They live in a desert, worried that each trip down a desert road or into an Iraqi town might be their last as the people they are trying to help walk up to shake their hand before blowing themselves, and everyone near, to pieces.  These men and women have died for our country...and do it for a meager paycheck or a trade.  They do it for their pensions, certainly...which typically pale in comparison to them legislators who sent them across the globe.  We say thank you far too little.

One of the most moving trips I have ever made was to the "Fields of Stone," - Arlington National Cemetery.  The picture at the right is one of my favorites, having read the story of the unit that protects the "Tomb of the Unknowns."  24/7, they guard the Tombs.  They do not care what the weather brings - heat of summer, blizzards, hurricanes - they stand watch.  They are a proud unit, as are all our military units, as they preserve and respect the brave Americans that have yet to be identified.  It is their honor.  If you have not been, I recommend the trip.  It will be moving and inspiring.  We need to remember, each and every day, that we live the lives we do because they stand watch for us, protecting us as none other.

Only when you see the enormity of this place, can you truly grasp the lives that have been given in our honor.  If you want to humble yourself and show appreciation, too, visit a Veterans Administration hospital.  As you walk through and see the men and women in wheelchairs, on crutches, without limbs, you can then grasp what we truly ask of them.  The motto of the Marines might be, "The Brave, The Proud," however I can tell you they are all - regardless of which branch of the military they served - the Brave & the Proud.  They deserve so much from us...let's not forget to tell them.  Always.

May God Bless the men and women of the US Military.  We love you, we appreciate you, and without question, we are proud of you.  Thank you for making us safe and giving us such incredible lives to live.

Until next time..............

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