I was asked to speak at an event to address a group of veterans to honor their service to our country, I did not know until later that I was asked to speak only because their first speaker had health issues that prevented him from attending. After I finished my talk and shook a few hands I found out just who I had “replaced.” The man that was supposed to address the veterans was an 87 year old veteran himself but he had just suffered a stroke and was now doing his best to recover in the care of a nursing home. He served as a U.S. Marine in the Pacific during World War II and fought his way through battle after bloody battle. This Marine veteran fought his way to the top of Mt. Suribachi and was one of the few who had a first hand account of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Amazing, the most copied, distributed and viewed photograph in the world was the flag raising on Iwo Jima and this man was part of the battle to bring the flag to the top of the mountain. Believe me, I would have much rather had the honor of listening to him that night. I was immediately overwhelmed; it was humbling to say the least.
This man is not just special because of where he fought; he is special because of why he fought. The American veteran is not just special but also extremely unique. They are the first in the history of the world to do something that until 1775, the rest of the world could have only dreamed of. Throughout world history, armies have come and gone and it doesn’t matter if they were rebelling slaves in ancient Rome or the feared elite Spartan warriors from ancient Sparta- none of them hold a candle anywhere near the American veteran. What sets the American veteran apart has nothing to do with the uniform they wore, the gear they packed or the ammunition they used. It has everything to do why they fought.
Prior to 1775, men were called into battle for many different reasons but mostly at the pleasure of their king or something similar, but in 1776 a revolution of ideas took place and for the first time in the history of the world, men would take up arms for the security of their liberty and the liberty of their neighbors. They would fight because they believed that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that governments and militaries are in place to protect our liberty. They took this belief, their gun and our flag into battle and they fought for us. Lord G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the definition of courage involves a contradiction in terms; he said that courage is having a desire to live that is so unbelievably strong that a person is actually willing to die fighting for life. I read this and thought about how appropriate this definition is as to why we celebrate and honor our veterans on Veterans Day; because as Americans, we understand and we remember that we have men and women who’s desire to keep us free is so unbelievably strong that they are willing to die for that freedom. This is why the American veteran is special. This is why every single one of them deserves our respect and our admiration and just a simple thank you to them is quite literally the very least we can do to show our appreciation.
Please take every opportunity you can to thank veterans for their service. There will come a time in the not too distant future when we will not be able to thank them anymore. That Marine who fought his way up Mt. Suribachi and witnessed the flag raising will not be with us forever, in fact, it won’t be long now until no one will ever be able to thank him again. They are all special and they are all unique. When we consider the blessings that God has poured out on our nation, we would be missing the most spectacular blessing of all to not realize that someone would be willing to lay down their life for our freedom. The only word I can honestly think of to describe someone like this is amazing, God bless them all.