Veterans Day is one of those pseudo holidays that’s hard to know how to celebrate. It is more about remembering and honoring rather than feasting and revelry.
The word ‘Veterans’ can be vague, conjuring images of crusty bearded men with braided hair down their backs protesting, or amputees that stare out the window and jump at the slightest sound. And sometimes those images are true.
But the Veterans of the United States Military are so much more than angry hippies or empty shells. They are the epitome of courage. They define brave. They are warriors. And they come in all shapes and sizes.
They carried muskets and wore knickers, fighting to become a nation unlike any on earth. They defended our borders in ships made of iron. They scrambled across the fields of Europe twice, and many never came back.
They flew rattletrap planes across the Pacific Ocean not knowing when or how they would touch terra firma again. They fought wars in jungles and eastern lands when their own friends and families did not support them.
They marched across desert sands to uproot evil and again, later, to avenge innocent lives lost in buildings that came tumbling down. And far from the home they love, they still fight in hell-holes of rock, grit, dirt, heat and insects.
They will miss time with their loved ones. They know that every day could be their last. They know no one will ever understand what they go through. And they know their service can never be repaid.
That is the secret, you know. It has never been about the payment. It has always been about the service. That is why it is called the Armed Services. The reasons our veterans sign their name on the dotted line vary, but the outcome is always the same.
Because of their service, we are free.
Thousands and thousands have paid the ultimate price. And thousands more stand ready to pay it. Why? Why would they do that? Because they are willing to fight for our country, to fight for our ideals, to fight for our freedom, to fight for you and me.
And they pay the price.
They are haunted by memories that rob them of peace. They come home with wounds and scars, some are visible, many are not. Or, they never come home at all. We know where some fell, and others, we will never know.
We cannot possibly repay these brave men and women, and they are not asking for that. But there is much we can do. If you see someone in uniform, shake a hand and thank them for their service. Take a veteran to lunch or invite one over for dinner and conversation.
Remember their names. Comfort their widows and widowers. Send a care package. Vote in elections big and small. Speak your mind, travel freely, worship in freedom. Someone died for your right to do so.
No, we can never repay our veterans. We can only treasure what they have given us. This Veterans Day, remember the check they signed.