I’m all for respect and admiration for our people we’ve lost in battle. I don’t think I could be any more for it. And it’s the same for those who are severely injured, those who lose limbs or suffer brain injuries. They’ve given everything for Country. I love nothing more than to see those old timers, and our young timers too, coming down the road in our parades or to see them at town functions or even just to see them in restaurants or shopping – those guys fought hard, came home, and they made a life for themselves They have an identity in their service. They seem tough and proud, yet they seem so normal. They don’t wear their wounds on the outside. We may have to look a little harder to see them, maybe they’ll never show them to us, but they’re there and these brave people deserve our acknowledgment just the same.
Did you know that some soldiers, a lot of them, just come home? They don’t come home in flag draped coffins, or they don’t come home missing limbs or faculties. They come home looking very much like they did when they left. They come home, and they integrate. Some of them have seen terrible, terrible things. Some of them have done things even worse. All of have them have been scared out of their minds and done their jobs anyway. They go in for so many different reasons. Some of them want to serve. Some of them are poor, and they’re looking for a leg up – so poor that they’re willing to sign their lives over for the chance for something better should they make it back here. Some just don’t know quite what to do with themselves so they enlist looking for direction. Most of them are just boys when they sign. Well, legally they’re men, but they’re boys just the same as I was still a girl when I was 18, 19, 20 years old. They come home different people no matter how they look.
Have you ever held a grown man’s head in your lap while he cried? Did he happen to be the father of your children, the guy who has busted his butt, been your hero, made everything happen? Have you ever seen a man’s face change and know that all you can do is try to mitigate, distract, and mitigate some more and hope for the best while you’re preparing for the worst, all the while knowing that your odds aren’t to hot for settling him down until he’s run his course? Have you ever wiped tears from that grown man’s face and tried to look caring, but not too caring; understanding, but not too understanding, intellectual, but not too intellectual; nonchalant, but not too nonchalant, because you just aren’t sure how to handle it this time? You’re never sure how to handle it, because you don’t know what you’re handling. He doesn’t tell you very much, and it seems like it’s different ever time.
Have you ever had your husband, the person you love more than anyone else in the entire universe and who you know loves you just the same, look at you like you are the enemy? Have you ever been scared, not scared for yourself so much, but scared so bad for someone you love – because he’s scared? Have you ever realized that for all you share with your husband, for all the love you have for one another, there is a part of him that you’ll never, ever know ? It’s a pretty huge part of him, and it’s not his fault you can’t know it.
Well then, how about thinking twice before you declare you “support the troops but not the war”? The soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines are the war. And if you’re so insulated from that idea then you ought to get down on your knees and thank those guys twice. After all, they were or are out there trying to protect you from whatever threat your government says there is. Rest assured that between you and them, they know the threat. You want to “bring them home”, do you? No kidding. You know who wants to get them home the most? They do. When they get home, some of them go back because they’re loyal, devoted, brave and committed. And when they get home for good, they want to be just like the rest of us. They aren’t like the rest of us. They’re forever not like the rest of us, and that’s a price they pay so we can be exactly like the rest of us.
These men are your neighbors, your teachers, your kids’ coaches. They have wives, jobs, families, hobbies, and hopes just like the rest of us, but they carry something we don’t, and many of them carry it like they carried their gear in combat: in silence, with dignity, with honor and valor and sometimes with fear.
I’ve been to so many parades and functions where veterans are to be honored, and people don’t remove their hats or even stand as the procession passes. Many people don’t stand for our flag or our national anthem. How sad that must be for veterans to whom those things mean so much. Please, the next time you’re at one of these places, stand for your veterans. It’s okay. Don’t be afraid to stand. No one is going to shoot at you. Even if they did, those veterans would know what to do. They’ve been there.