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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day: Why we remember

I want to introduce you to someone: a young man full of promise that has huge obstacles to overcome before he can get on with his life. His name is Corporal Todd Nicely, USMC. When you read his story and watch the video, don't dwell on his injuries because he certainly doesn't seem to. Instead, look at the man. He's 26, married, and has his whole life ahead of him. Think about that; he's 26. In terms of the military, that makes him an old man.

The next time you watch a movie involving the military, look carefully at those portraying the soldiers; they tend to be twenty or thirty something with square jaws, chiseled features and straight teeth. They are an illusion. When you watch a movie about the War Between the States, and you see row upon row of pot-bellied, superannuated reenactors advancing across the battlefield, you are being lied to.

The next time you watch a news broadcast about the war in the Middle East, notice how they focus on helicopters, tanks, humvees and long shots of the Soldiers or Marines as they go about their tasks. This is deception. Soldiers faces are displayed only when it serves the purpose of the reporter, and they are carefully vetted to insure that they are photogenic enough for the task.

I say these things because the men and women that get sent to far away places to do things that lesser individuals cannot conceive of, are kids. I do not say that pejoratively for in their achievements and their dedication to this nation, they are far more deserving of the title "American" than those that watch the war on TV. But they are YOUNG.

It has always been this way.

When you read a history book, and you learn of men like Audie Murphy, John Basilone, or Ross McGinnis, keep in mind that these men did what they did in the prime of their life. When you see that old man with the baseball cap embroidered with "USS Saratoga", the middle-aged bald guy with the faded "Airborne" tattoo, the intense, self-assured woman wearing a jacket adorned with the insignias of various Air Force bases, or the muscular young man with the Globe and Anchor t-shirt announcing to the world that he is a Marine, remember that they all have one important thing in common; they sacrificed a large part of their youth, signed on the dotted line, and took upon themselves the responsibility of protecting this country. In some cases, they served only as a deterrent to this nation's enemies, ready to do whatever it took to preserve our liberty.  Some, like John Basilone and Ross McGinnis made the ultimate sacrifice. Most, served, survived, and came home.

Corporal Nicely survived, but he left a good portion of himself on the battlefield. Certainly not the best of him, but definitely enough to remind him every day of the price of liberty. I present him to you, not as some sort of macabre freak show, but as a reminder that above all of the vagaries of political whim, beyond all of the bickering about left and right, and more real than any pseudo-sympathy expressed by some expensively coiffed talking head, are the men and women in uniform that have dedicated themselves to higher ideals than personal gratification, accumulation of wealth, or acquisition of power. Regardless of your opinion about the military, the war in the Middle East, or the current political situation, take a moment to think about them, remember them, and say a quick prayer for them. They are certainly worth at least that.

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