Whether a brother or sister, father or mother, grandfather grandmother, friend or foe, go out there and thank a veteran today. Do your best to understand what they had to do for the country and the comparative ease in which you live. Ask about their good friends they still keep close to their hearts. Don't approach the subject of what they did and saw in combat. It is the ultimate insult to the memory of our fallen. I write about those things because people ought to know what is happening to our men and women in a far away land. I can't write or talk about such horror without shedding a few tears. So please don't ask about the gruesome details. Rather, ask them their most cherished memory during their time in the service.
I recall convoying on the highway through eastern Washington on our way to Yakima for training. Standing up in the back hatch, I watched as people drove by in their cars, honking and waving. Some even braved the wheel with one hand and took pictures with the other. Classic rock blared through the internal speakers, and we played air guitar for the confused passing motorists. When a Stryker broke down, Dozer and I sat on top of the hatches and lazily chatted for hours as the convoy was stopped on the side of the road. Like kids, we would make the motion for pulling the string for 18-wheelers as they went by. They gladly replied with long, thunderous honks of their horn.
While on leave from Iraq, I opted to go to Europe with my friend Steve instead of going home. We figured it would have been more bitter than sweet to see our family so briefly. We made our way through Holland to France, arriving in Caen after a brief stay in Paris. We decided to take a tour of the Normandy beaches and with it, the American Cemetery that lay next to one of the invasion beachheads. Everyone buried there was an American soldier killed during the invasion of June 6, 1944 and subsequent fighting to break Hitler's Atlantic Wall. It was moving to be in that place, at that time, while my friends were fighting for their lives and each other in Baqubah.
Despite what I think about the war, the administration, and the policies that shaped our lives, I can't help but feel incredibly lucky to serve with the finest men this country has ever produced. The memories and experiences we have will forever be seared into our memory for the rest of our lives. I am always grateful to have this ever growing forum to tell the world what happened in those fifteen months. So while I have your ears, go now. Tell a veteran you are proud of their commitment, service and sacrifice, and that you're forever in the debt of the men we couldn't bring back home alive, and the men who came back forever changed.
In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
If you're a veteran, leave a comment telling your favorite story of your service, in war or in peace.