What is a Veteran ?

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 souls ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badges or emblems,

You can’t tell a Vet by just 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 bar room loud mouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is out weighed a hundred times on 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 training slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines , and teaching them to watch each others 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 Unknown, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserver the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the oceans 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 when the nightmares comeback.

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 theirs.

He is a solider and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, the greatest nation has 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 will mean more that any medal they could have been awarded or were awarded. Two little words that mean a lot,


author- Father Denis Edward O’Brien - USMC