“In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast.” ~ Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Over the years I‘ve grown accustomed to receiving accolades on Veteran’s Day from friends and family and I’ve learned to accept those accolades with the graciousness in which they are intended by those well-meaning friends and family while simultaneously hiding the tinge of pain felt for those countless brethren who made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields throughout the world. Why should I receive those accolades when their sacrifice was far greater than mine? I know these feelings are the result of my own short-comings in superimposing my own views on Veteran’s Day, so I thought what better way to come face to face with my own demons than to write about what it truly means to be a veteran.
Many people think being a veteran means someone was willing to fulfill an obligation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being a veteran means you had the honor of serving. Just as in business and in our personal and spiritual lives, serving others should always be viewed as an honor rather than an obligation. Serving also often means sacrificing. Those two words – serving and sacrificing – are really the essence of being a veteran.
At some point in life, usually later rather than sooner, we discovery that time is the greatest commodity of life. The veteran made the decision to sacrifice the time of their youthful years when they could have been comfortably building their families and pursuing their careers as an engineer, an accountant or business owner. Instead they sacrificed those years in service to country and defending the freedom of others. The fact that you are able to express your thanks to them this Veteran’ Day simply means they were fortunate enough to make it home so they could then resume their lives and dreams.
To many people it seems that the service and sacrifice would never be worth the price, but the veteran will tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing in life can ever replace the brotherhood that develops among soldiers and sailors in a war zone. Nothing in life can replace the inner-confidence garnered when one has faced the fire of life. Nothing in life can ever replace the responsibility of knowing the lives of your brothers in arms are dependent on you having their back. These are the rare life experiences, truly known by so few that can never be taken from the veteran and their true value as a human being are immeasurable.
So this Veteran’s Day I encourage you to express your appreciation to the veterans in your life, but know the truth – what they gained from their experience as a veteran far outweighs the service and sacrifice they made. It was an honor to serve.