"What Is A Vet?"

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a

jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence

inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the

leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the

refinery of adversity.


Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe

wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking.


What is a vet?


He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating

two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run

out of fuel. He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks,

whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the

cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.


She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep

sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.


He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't

come back AT ALL. He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen

combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account

rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each

other's backs.


He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals

with a prosthetic hand.


He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass

him by.


He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose

presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the

memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with

them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.


He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and

aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes

all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the

nightmares come.


He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who

offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country,

and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice



He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is

nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest,

greatest nation ever known.


So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just

lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most

cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or

were awarded.


Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU."


Warner Anderson MD

Chief, Emergency Medicine

Gallup Indian Medical Center

U.S. Public Health Service and LTC, MC

Group Surgeon 1

9 Special Forces Group Airborne

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