They were there with Washington when he crossed the Delaware. They were there when the Star Spangled Banner was conceived. They were at Shiloh and Gettysburg. They charged up a hill in San Juan. They laid in muddy trenches, enduring savage artillery barrages in France. They stormed the murderous beaches of Normandy and marched down the Champs-Elysee – twice. They were at the abominable, frozen Chosen reservoir in Korea. They sweated out the rice paddies and the heartbreaking retreat in Viet Nam. They were in the tanks in the first one and second one and Humvees in the ones that followed. They endured the intense anxiety of the IEDs and the nerve wracking experience of house to house fighting. In between these events they stood on the walls in faraway places to maintain this country’s integrity and security.
Who are these people? They are the men and women of the armed forces. They are the veterans. You may see them today in the gray-haired old men in the corner of McDonald’s or the long-haired hippies sitting on a park bench or the lone figure with a faraway look in his eye. They may speak in an oscillating and cracked soft voice about times gone past. They may speak of friends who never had a chance to grow old or of children they would like to see. Do not pass these people by as being funny or insignificant.
When the patriots’ call came, they answered it. How many people thought the call for affirmation of citizenship right, was a call for deferment. Those deferment people may live to be gray-haired old men, but they won’t have the twinkle of pride in the eye that says, I was there; either in the battle or on the wall. The veterans are not looking for adulation or praise but just an acknowledgment that what they did was important.
When you see those gray-haired old men in the corner of McDonald’s or the long-haired hippies sitting on a park bench or the quiet man in the corner of the room, give them a smile. You just may have thanked a veteran.