History & Culture / Veterans News

Honoring Our Veterans


Our veterans need to know – above politics – that we do not just “think well” of them, we revere them.

Our veterans need to know – above politics – that we do not just “think well” of them, we revere them. We do not just “thank them for their service,” we honor them for volunteering to fight – as necessary to die – defending us. They are not cut from common cloth, but something different.

Ask one, and they will say nothing of the kind. They will nod and smile, glad that someone remembers, even bothers to remember. They will not think great things of themselves, even if you do. Their mind will drift back, if time permits, to others they knew, those they served with.  

That is what they will do, because recognition is not the point, even if ribbons mark moments in time. That is not what drew them to the fight. That is not what kept them up at night. 

What drew them is something else, a call answered, an inner pounding, maybe a friend or family tradition, a need to take the fight – epic “good fight” – to sources of evil, do the mission. 

And there is a word – mission. Every service member knows it, drinks deeply of, like the thirsty hiker from an alpine stream. Mission is what wakes them up, fills them in sleep, close as their weapon. It is why they are where they are, know what they know, do what is needed.

What is mission? It is life purpose, sometimes collapsed into one all-or-nothing moment, or perhaps spread across sleepless years, or 179 days, or a month, in which they “make it happen.”

Vets know. They all know. It is what propels them – and protects those back home. It is the power of doing raw justice, unswerving, no apologies, resolved to answer what “cannot stand.”

Their mission creates ours, understanding truth. We owe those who serve and served on distant ramparts, whether for a short time or long, here or abroad, everything. Their pledge is to us.  

A few hundred thousand WWII veterans still live among us, from the original 16 million. Try to find one. If you do, speak a little, give sincere thanks, then just listen and learn.

A receding number of Korean War and Vietnam War vets walk among us, saying little. Find them, encourage, and again listen. They know things worth hearing, saw things most never will. Younger vets, from recent conflicts, Panama, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, deserve the same.

Why – at this juncture – must we remember? Because we – “the many” – are protected by “the few.” Less than one percent of Americans serve on active duty. All the veterans alive today – all those who fought or served, active or reserve, National Guard to every service branch, represent less than seven percent of our entire country.

Why else? Another underreported epidemic is afoot – nothing to do with COVID. It is an epidemic of significance, facing law enforcement too, but it hit the military hard in recent months.

Stresses that torture steel in flight, shake powerful rockets through Max Q, are akin to stresses that torture a person in harm’s way – knowing what they do not know, yet ready to act.

Like metal which loses temper, rockets that need refurbishing, men and women who have served need refreshing, which can mean different things for each, but mostly a return to peace.

That has been hard lately – hard because veterans need time, patience, and freedom to reorient, refuel, and realign. It is harder with COVID, disrespect from leaders for what they are doing, what they have done, the high calling to which they rose – for us.

The result is rough news, on the suicide front. Data just out says veterans are dying faster from suicides than COVID, 163 taking their own lives in the third quarter of 2021 alone. That should not happen, must not continue, and on the national stage, people need to sit up and notice. See, e.g., Nearly twice as many military members died from suicide July-Sept than from coronavirus since pandemic’s start.

If the world delivers stress to every doorstep, heartache to every heart, loss and grief, remorse and regret, veterans carry inordinate stress, bear unseen scars, whether on the front lines, in the rear, deployed with injury, returned unscratched, or home front. They were ready – and being ready means spending long hours in your own head, processing fear, guilt, and other things.

So, the point of this piece is straightforward. Honor veterans you meet, because they are different. Talk with them, find them, listen to what they know, and you may not. Begin with deep respect, knowing you are pushing open a gate to sacred ground, and then go from there.

On the national level, as well as personal, remember that the “black dog” of stress did not shadow their door by chance. They signed up to meet him, stepped to battle, for you and me. Some carry the burden of that decision forever. Honor them, as they honored you.

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Clay Pratt
6 months ago

Thank you! Where in 70

10 months ago

As an American veteran of the Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars I am grateful for the retirement benefits and honors made available to me. I was fortunate and was never exposed to the disrespect I heard others endured. I now serve those serving as a Red Cross Volunteer at a military hospital. You don’t have to do a lot to show respect and friendship, just saying Hi, welcome, have a good day elicits a response of appreciation from these young Soldiers, Airmen, Navy and their family members. Not to mention the appreciation of the retiree population. So put your cell phone in your pocket, lift up your head, look the person in the eye and say with feeling: Thank You for your service, good morning, can I help you…. believe me, honoring them is honoring you and by doing so you both will have a good day.

10 months ago

A thoughtfully considered, understood and expressed article honoring our American vets and this grateful Amercan says “Thank you so much and God bless you!

10 months ago

Once again, great article. I just want to let all the veterans out there know how much I appreciate them and their sacrifices for mine and my family’s freedom . Thank you so much. And to the survivors of those veterans who gave all, God Bless You and I hope you can find comfort in knowing just how much your loved is appreciated and honored for giving all to keep us free

Keith Peters
10 months ago

I am a Vietnam veteran. I read this article and cried. I never asked for sympathy, just understanding.
Thank you Mr. Charles for your wonderful words.

Di B
10 months ago
Reply to  Keith Peters

Thank you, sir, for your service and God Bless You!

10 months ago

Again RBC, thank you again for this article. I remember the start of my military career where I would meet service members that had served with my father during his career and took a few moments to catch up. As my career advanced during the years, it was great to catch up with members that I served with. Being retired now, my wife and I are always on the the look out for those who have served and take the time to thank them for their service and find out what they did if they are willing to converse. I have a nephew serving in an naval air squadron out on the West Coast who was working with a civilian contractor who had served and knew my father back in the late 1950’s. Just love the small military world.

H. H.
10 months ago

This Vietnam vet thanks you. The war didn’y physically injure me, but I came home unable to create the life I’d imagined in high school, before I enlisted on graduating and volunteering for Vietnam. Church, Boy Scouts, Pres. Kennedy’s inaugural … helt deeply it was my onligation to serve my country. Articles like yours brings tears to this old man’s eyes.

10 months ago

RBC, I thank you for your heartwarming article!

I enlisted in the U. S. Air Force on October 1962. After graduating from tech school, I enjoyed leave prior to departing for my overseas assignment. I wore my Class A uniform visiting the community college that I had attended. As I walked across the campus, more than one student booed me and called me a “baby killer!” I did a lot of growing up during my period in the service to my country. It was too bad that those students who booed and accused me did not join me in service instead of such blatant disrespect! I forgive them and pray tell, they finally did something worthwhile with their lives and made a worthy tribute to America by some other means.

Jim Humble
10 months ago

Thank You!! I’m also a vet, served in the US during the Vietnam Era.

10 months ago

Well said Charles!! I couldn’t agree more. And while we’re thinking of those who put their lives on the line so that the rest of us might live on; I have trouble with the cowards who won’t put their arms forth for a couple of jabs so that everyone might live on. Don’t give me the Republican BS, and I am a confirmed Republican, about infringing on our rights. We all have a duty to give for our fellow Americans. Just because a damn Democrat is mandating the vaccinations, doesn’t mean we have to not respect the reality of the situation. There are plenty of other issues to take issue on with the Democrats.

John A Bird
10 months ago
Reply to  DBM

As a disabled Vietnam Veteran, I am sorry that you believe in the politics of the virus and haven’t done your homework concerning the science. This so called government that you reference has forcefully been pushing this nation into the New World Order since WWII and it will not stop until either all, or a few of the patriots wake up to kill the very nature of this takeover and those within the “deep state”. This is for the most part the democratic party, rinos, fbi, our judiciary, supreme court justices, all blue states governors, mayors, judges, school boards, professors, teachers, etc, etc, etc. We need to stop the overreach of the Federal Government now and all those who have fallen for their lies and innuendos.

10 months ago
Reply to  DBM

Can’t you just take out a little time to honor our veterans instead of bringing politics into this article

10 months ago
Reply to  HocasPocas

My intention was not to bring politics into the discussion. I was only trying to point out that getting vaccinated to protect the nation from the pandemic is, albeit on a much smaller scale, like the motivation for those brave soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect the nation. For what it’s worth, I attend every memorial day and veterans day service in my town, I was instrumental in getting one town nearby to not hold any extra curricular activities on memorial day so that people could attend those services, and I know several veterans with whom I am in frequent contact and support. I nominated the head of veterans affairs in my home town for an award, which she received, for her efforts in bringing “The Wall that Heals”, a 3/4 size replica of the Vietnam Memorial wall in DC to our home town for a week of remembrances. And I won’t mention all the veterans charities to which I donate on a regular basis.
This is not to brag, but only to show that I have a constant appreciation for the veterans, and active service members, who afford me the peaceful life that I am privileged to live in this great country.

10 months ago

Proud to be a vet and thank you for this great article.

10 months ago

Not sure I can thank you enough for printing this article.
More needs to be done for our Veterans, at every level.

R.J. from Arizona
10 months ago

Wonderful article. As a vet, Thank You

Ms.Linda Papa
10 months ago

With much admiration and respect I would like to request Address’s where I could write to those in the service.. I apologize my phone is not behaving very well.

10 months ago
Reply to  Ms.Linda Papa

Ms. Papa, what a wonderful idea and initiative. Let me offer a few immediate ideas, rather than fill your phone with addresses of – and there are many – deserving veterans. Wherever you live, in the near vicinity – almost without exception – is a VA Hospital. At the same time, private Veterans homes abound. Some are more known, others less. A large one is the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington DC, but they exist – and can be easily googled – from Maine to Florida, DC to the West Coast. They is then talking with someone there, as they will be the funnel, the opening end of a cone – as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, and more recently established groups across the country. Al these can be found in a phone book, or on line in a search. Time is then needed to express that you want to send letters, and holidays are great times for earnest cards. If the hospital or home permits, you might be able to visit, read or offer another volunteer service. In short, we are always able to give and God bless you for reaching out and stepping up. May the process work, and know that your voice – your heart animating your voice, of appreciation for what our veterans have done – can make all the difference. With thanks, RBC

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