James S. Robbins has a post reminding us of the uniqueness of service in the American military.
For most, military service is a short period, a few years. But they may be dramatic and formative years, very significant for the life to follow. Some may look back on those as their best years. Others may not want to remember them. Most return from war unscathed if not unchanged, others with varying degrees of wounds, some physical, some emotional, or both. The experience may shape and define one’s future, or not. But as a veteran you can be guaranteed a spot in the hallowed ground of Arlington or another of the national cemeteries. You can salute the flag (rather than placing your hand over your heart), whether in uniform or not. More importantly you will have the satisfaction of having done something exceptional, something you share with over 23 million Americans. (Only 7.2 percent of American men are veterans, and if you are a female vet, you are in a more exclusive club of 1.8 million, or six tenths of a percent of the US population.) And you will enjoy the admiration of a country that recognizes your sacrifices and is grateful.
Veterans, it is your day. Show the pride you have earned. Accept the respect you deserve. Share your stories if it suits you. Or just enjoy the freedom you have preserved as part of the continually renewing heritage of the American armed forces. And thanks for taking on the hardest job in the world.