To serve your country you must be willing to say good-bye to all those you love and care about...not knowing if this will truly be your last good-bye. You must be willing to be brought down and trounced on both physically and emotionally so that you can be built up to be soldier strong. You must be prepared to: sleep on a cot, a mat or in the dirt and mud; to eat rations, bugs and sometimes nothing; to be so hot that it feels as if your skin is melting off and so cold that you are verging on frost bite. You have to be willing to be tired, hungry and dirty and still be be alert enough to do your job....and that job can mean the difference between life and death for you and others. You have to be willing to save your fellow soldier and put your life on the line at a moments notice knowing that you are doing it not just for yourself, your family and your friends......but for complete strangers so that they may continue to live in the land of the free. Oh and did I mention that they must be willing to do all of this on a service man's pay (which looks nothing like an actors or a presidents)?
Our veterans have done this and more and not always come home to a hero's welcome. Often they have been viewed as second class citizens and at times even had their healthcare and benefits threatened by the very government they put their lives on the line for. To be a soldier and fight for this country requires a special kind of person who loves this country and what it stands for and who is willing to stand up not only to defend their rights but the rights of all Americans. So why do we only honor them one day a year? Without them.....we would have nothing!
So today and every day this year I give anyone who reads this a challenge. When you are in the presence of a veteran......shake their hand, look them in the eye and thank them. Visit a military cemetery and remember that each stone marks the grave of a man or woman who willingly gave their life so that you could live yours in freedom. Teach your kids to both honor and respect these individuals and never let them forget that freedom is not free and without the bravery of these soldiers our country would be a very different place.
To my husband, mother, father, aunts, uncles, nephew, cousins and many friends who have served their country, bled for their country and even died for their country......I say thank you from the bottom of my heart......and that doesn't even begin to cover just how grateful I am.