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A Veterans Day Tribute for 11/11/11

Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 05:20 PM

Impatient, petulant, and yes, spoiled members of younger generations who enjoy the benefits of the land of the free often criticize older folks for driving slowly, or snagging the grocery line, or otherwise becoming roadblocks in our daily lives because they just don’t move fast enough anymore.

Lost in the shuffle — theirs and ours — is the fact that previous generations moved plenty fast when it was time to defend the United States of America. They were quick on their feet when it was time to ensure the freedoms that make Americans’ lives so much more blessed than those in other countries.

Obviously, this is not to say that all military veterans are senior citizens, as hundreds of thousands continue to serve, to defend, and sometimes, to die, to preserve the freedoms.

However, many veterans are of a certain age, let’s consider the following alternative possibilities Veterans Day, on this 11/11/11, the next time we view an older man or woman as an inconvenience or a stumbling block during our daily errands.

The Next Time: You experience a rush of road rage because you are behind a hesitant and slow, elderly driver on the interstate, a man so shriveled with age that you can’t even see his thinning hair or balding dome above the headrest, consider the possibility that, as a young man, he sat tall and strong as he maneuvered an Army tank across the desolate battlefields of Europe under the command of Gen. George S. Patton.

The Next Time: You are chafing because you are behind a woman holding up the checkout line as her gnarled hands struggle to grasp the coins in her purse, consider the possibility that, as a young Army nurse, those self-same hands nimbly and gently salved the wounds of a dying soldier, providing his only comfort in his final moments in a strange land, far from hearth and home.

The Next Time: You get riled because you are stalled in an airplane aisle behind an old man who is struggling to put his luggage in the overhead rack, consider the possibility that, decades ago, he was one of the few pilots at Pearl who was able to run to his plane under deadly enemy fire and get airborne to retaliate against the catastrophic Japanese onslaught.

The Next Time: You get angry waiting for an old gentleman to get on an elevator to descend because the delay might make you miss a meeting, consider the possibility that, as a muscular young lad barely out of his teens, he descended on a parachute behind enemy lines, under withering fire from Nazi troops, to fight for your freedom.

The Next Time: You silently ridicule an old man struggling to exercise, although he is barely able to walk, as he tries to run on the same path you zip along on, consider the possibility that he once resolutely struggled for his life as he was starved, taunted, and tortured during the 60-mile Bataan Death March, barely surviving that ordeal while thousands of his colleagues fell dead along the way.

The Next Time: Your stomach growls, and your lip snarls, as an old fella in a cafeteria line holds up the show as he puzzles over whether to take the chicken or the beef, consider the possibility that he once was a strapping, but lonely, young lad pondering the chipped beef offered in a crude mess hall in a foreign land as he dreamed of Mom’s home cooking.

The Next Time: You look down on what appears to be a bum sleeping fitfully on a bench late at night, consider the possibility that he once was a young man who vigilantly served night guard duty in South Korea, missing his wife and a new baby he hadn’t even seen yet.

The Next Time: You sneer in ridicule as you pass a disheveled, unshaven and apparently unshowered, man holding a placard proclaiming, “Homeless Gulf War vet; anything will help,” consider the possibility that he is, indeed, a vet who has fallen on hard times instead of assuming he is a scam artist conning you. And give him a high-five and a 5-dollar bill, just in case.

The Next Time: You honk derisively and scornfully at a one-legged man in a wheelchair struggling to cross the intersection after the light has changed, consider the possibilities that he lost that leg in an unpopular war in Vietnam, and that he faced nothing but derision and scorn when he returned home from an unpopular war.

Such possibilities are worth pondering these days, when we fail to show proper respect for the men and women of what rightly has been called the Greatest Generation, the one that fought impossible odds and daunting challenges under primitive conditions to provide for a free nation in which we enjoy conveniences beyond their wildest dreams. And we take that convenience, and those providers, for granted.

Especially on Veterans Day, when we owe them big time for our better times.

Roadblocks? Hardly. These senior citizens paved the road of protection for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Inconveniences? Certainly NOT. They guaranteed the life of opportunities that bless us.

Instead of becoming irritated and impatient, the next time we encounter these heroes, we should extend our hands, and shake theirs, in thanks for their service to their country. And to us.

And let's salute them, and thank them, for being American soldiers, and Marines, and sailors, and Coast Guard members, and National Guard members — all those who serve. This video, although dated 2009, carries a timeless message about why they do what they do. For us, and for freedom.

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