What is it that inspires and enables ordinary citizens to rise to the challenge of service to their country? Who are these souls willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives?
To fight our wars, you must believe something and want something you’re not willing to part with. You must harbor a will and conviction stronger than any other purpose you wish to serve. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to hardships, perhaps long and arduous, without having the foresight of how and where it will end.
For those who have, it becomes a journey far more than service. It makes us who we are. In the process we not only become students of history, of philosophy, wiser human beings, but also better versions of ourselves due to one another... regardless of the era served, the battlefields, or the units. We attribute no special merit to a man from one unit vs the other. We know that, if the units of our wars did anything worth remembering, the credit belongs not to the Depts who make up our defense - but to the individuals who did it.
History tells us we are living in a time of economic prosperity. This shelters our countrymen from threats that are not well understood by them. This era also sees many young people having no personal connection to the military. Many Americans today have no experience with or are familiar with the military. There are many reasons for the disconnect. You've encountered some of the ignorance and apathy yourselves.
And, in the absence of service, how do our countrymen recognize you, to pay tribute?
For us it’s simple. It’s in the eyes. Eyes that if you look, tell you of experiences and sacrifice. They hold stories of honor. Of brotherhood. Of patriotism. Eyes older by wisdom. Most of the time they’re proud because their service saw them in chaotic places. That the world can be a harsh place. But is a different place a better place because of those sacrifices.
If gratitude comes your way - it comes in many forms. From a stranger it may come in the form of a handshake or ‘thank you’. From the men and women passing you through the grocery stores, the airports, the streets, it may be a nod. A nod that acknowledges who we are and your service - that says you are forever thought of by those who understand. That we are with you. Your brethren.
There may be few of us, but we celebrate and solemnly reaffirm our faith in your sacrifice. Your service embodies the most admirable forms of our beliefs - to act with courage, honor and patriotism.
An Anonymous Vet