If you are like me, as are the majority of American citizens, we have no way to measure or appreciate the sacrifices made, or the ultimate costs paid by any military veteran of America’s Armed Forces.
How can we? We have not been trained the way they have, nor have we ever been transported off to a strange environment to face a seemingly faceless force that is hell bent on killing us for defending the rights of others and the values of a civilized society.
There is a moral difference between a soldier and a civilian, as most of us are.
Most people take for granted the price Americans have paid to defend our freedoms. More than a million men and women have lost their lives combating tyranny throughout our short history, from the American Revolution to the Civil War, from world wars to the current long war against transnational terrorism.
It is easy to forget the sacrifices of these men and women when most people are worried about what is happening in their own lives at home.
One of the most important holidays is nearly upon us. No, it is not Christmas nor Thanksgiving. On Nov. 11, more than half a century ago, the U.S. created the national holiday Veterans Day.
Originally called Armistice Day, this holiday was renamed to honor all veterans who served in our armed forces. Why do we hold a specific day to honor all those who served? What makes soldiers so different from civilians?
There is no argument that soldiers and civilians are fundamentally different from one another. For some, these reasons are obvious, and for others not so much.
I have had the privilege to meet many great men and women in my lifetime. Some were soldiers and some were not. We live in a very difficult time period when men and women are working diligently to ensure that our constitution, our government, and our people remain free and safe at any and all cost.
However, what exactly does 'any and all cost' mean?
The real difference between a soldier and a civilian is that a soldier will swear to defend the United States with his or her life, a civilian will not. A soldier will run toward conflict and a civilian will run away from it. The true difference between soldiers and civilians is that a soldier would sacrifice all to protect us.
Aside from the obvious difference of self-sacrifice, there are many other differences between soldiers and civilians.
Have you ever been to a high school football game and spoken through our nation’s song or forgot to take off your hat? Some soldiers get very annoyed when this happens, because they see it as disrespectful. Most soldiers will show the respect their flag deserves during our song. That is discipline and respect.
For the most part, a soldier will be extremely disciplined because that is what they are trained to be. A soldier will not procrastinate, but will get up and do whatever he or she must.
There's an old saying that a soldier can get more done before 6 a.m. than most people do all day. There are many more qualities that highlight the differences between a soldier and a civilian, one being loyalty.
After going through boot camp, a soldier and his unit are very tight. They have suffered together, they have bled together, and now they are ready to fight together.
The brotherhood found in a unit in the armed forces is stronger than anything else, sometimes even stronger than blood.
There is an immense difference between a soldier and his unit and an athlete and his team.
Civilians usually do not attain that level of trust and loyalty that a soldier shares with another. Soldiers trust one another with their life. Can you expect the same with your teammates?
Many authors including Chris Hedges and the late Robert Heinlein have observed what war does to individuals.
Hedges is a war journalist who wrote about soldiers in a sociological way. They have their own sub-class in our society; they speak with one another and join groups together such as the VFW. They do this because it helps them, makes them feel comfortable. All these soldiers understand each other because of their shared experiences. They seem to have a closer bond than some civilians do.
These soldiers have endured so much for our freedom and deserve our respect. Not for just one day, but rather, every day.
If you see a soldier sitting a few tables away from you, walk over and thank him or her for their service.
A few weeks ago I witnessed two women, probably between 18 and 25, pay for an old veteran’s meal. They did not do it to look good in front of others or because it was Veterans Day. They simply did it out of respect.
So for Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and every other day of the year, if you see a veteran, walk up to him or her and let them know you appreciate their service. It could be the nicest moment of their day.
Do not let their sacrifice go unappreciated, because as President Coolidge said, "A nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”
Don’t let that happen. See or know a soldier? Thank the solider for his or her service, no matter what.
Ask about it. You may get a story or maybe not. What you will get is sincere appreciation and respect.