"A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers"
- President John F. Kennedy
Twice this week I will have the privilege to participate in two ceremonies to honor our country's veterans. If it goes as it has in the past, the turnout will be somewhere between a handful of old men in VFW caps, to a dedicated but small crowd. The P.A. system will squawk, the rifle salute will be less than crisp and the coverage will be token.
One of the groups I am addressing is the student body of the High School. I plan to share with them the words of George Washington:
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any way, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how the perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
Last week I was struck by the fact that regardless of whether John Kerry or George Bush was elected President, there were still some dog tired Marines outside Fallujah. They have their Discman's on and their headphones in place. They're propped up against a box of MRE's or the tire of a Humvee. They're cleaning their weapons in preparation for an assault that will cost some of them their lives.
They are 19 and 49. They are white and black and red and yellow and mostly dirty. They stink because they haven't showered in a week. Their extra socks are dry and so are their mouths. They haven't the luxury of discussing geopolitics over a Starbucks.
Telescoping through time you can imagine their comrades, in the jungles of Vietnam, the freezing horror that was "The Bulge," Gettysburg, Bunker Hill. Think me a little too sentimental if you will, it is just that I happen to believe that our lives would be a lot different today if these incredible individuals hadn't lived.
Opinions vary, parties change, and hindsight is always 20-20. It doesn't take much to acknowledge the service of our Veterans. All it takes is a grateful heart.
LCDR Jim Jenkins, CHC, USNR
Copyright 2004 by Jim Jenkins. All rights reserved.