Cartoon by Joe Heller of the Green Bay Press Gazette

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Veterans: Who Do They Think They Are? -- by Laurel A. Olmstead

November 21, 2003

Today, I overheard a young man exclaim, ďVeterans, who do they think they are?Ē Was he a protester carrying a sign? No. Was he someone who had been wronged by a veteran? No. He simply had discovered that his mail might not be delivered on Veterans Day.

I donít know who I am more upset with: the mother who didnít say anything to her son, or myself for not telling this guy just who Veterans think they are. So I decided to write something that I can hand to someone should the question ever arise again. This is just a partial list of all that our military has done, and is doing for us.

ďVeterans, Who Do They Think They Are?Ē

They are the men and women who live every day in pain. Physical pain from their wounds, lost limbs, or maybe itís the shrapnel they still carry. Emotional pain from being separated from their families for long periods of time. For missing the birth of their child, or the death of a parent. Mental pain for what they have seen and what they had to do. Pain from knowing that they would have died for you, and you are not wise enough to know you should care.

They are the ones who make life-long friends. They know how precious life is and they never forget the ones who didnít make it back. Never. That is why you will see Veterans at the cemetery on Memorial Day walking around and silently thanking the ones who are buried there. They donít have to have known them personally to know the sacrifice each one made.

They are the ones who are loud and boisterous. They are the ones who are quiet.

They are the ones who shivered in a foxhole, trying to keep the enemy at bay.

They are the ones who crawled through sand when the temperature was 126 degrees.

They are the ones who sometimes drink too much, trying to keep the memories from haunting them.

They are the ones who carry the flag with the honor and respect it deserves.

They are the ones who wear their military uniform with pride and still have it in their closet years after they served.

They are the ones who donít ask you to get out of the way for them.

They are the ones who have gone out of their way for you.

They are the ones who spent many nights awake on guard duty so you didnít have to.

They are the ones who helped keep our shores safe while you played video games.

They are the ones who missed their birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates.

They are the ones who got shot and got sent home, but felt guilty because their buddies were still there.

They are the ones who followed orders even when they didnít want to.

They are the ones who had enough love and pride in their country to do a job many others couldnít do.

They are the ones who stepped up when the call went out.

They are the ones who ate [combat rations] Ďtil they were sick of them.

They are the ones who cried ďMedic!Ē at the top of their lungs though they couldnít even hear their own voice.

They are the ones who cried when they were alone in their [quarters].

They are the ones who flew planes, drove tanks, worked a ship, and armed the missiles.

They are the ones who had moms at homes praying for them every minute of every day.

They are the ones who made it safe for you so you could go to school or work.

They are the ones who missed ordering pizza, the movies, the shopping trips, and all that you take for granted.

They are the ones who asked to take a friendís deployment because that friend had a family.

They are the ones who gave their girlfriends [or boyfriends] a lock of their hair to keep as a promise of their return.

They are the ones who wanted to come home.

They are the ones who didnít return.

They are the ones who waited months for a letter. How can you not wait one day?



God Bless Our Veterans.

Laurel A. Olmstead

Wife of a Veteran

Proud Mother of two Veterans

© 2003, Laurel A. Olmstead. All opinions expressed in this article are the authorís and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com