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|1.||a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation, office, or the like: a veteran of the police force; a veteran of many sports competitions.|
|2.||a person who has served in a military force, esp. one who has fought in a war: a Vietnam veteran.|
|3.||(of soldiers) having had service or experience in warfare: veteran troops.|
|4.||experienced through long service or practice; having served for a long period: a veteran member of Congress.|
|5.||of, pertaining to, or characteristic of veterans.|
[Origin: 1495–1505; < L veterānus mature, experienced, equiv. to veter- (s. of vetus) old + -ānus -an]
I appreciate #2 of the definition above, pulled from dictionary.com, that illustrates a military veteran as a “Vietnam veteran.” All too often our focus ends with a WWII veteran. We’ve just about run out of WWI vets and the WWII vets, now called the Greatest Generation, are dying at the rate of about 1000 a day. In the flurry to honor them while we still have them, we can lose sight of the men who fought in Korea because that was a police action headed up by the United Nations. Our Viet Nam vets often take a back seat. Those are the men who were spat on when they came home. They are the ones who sometimes don’t tell people that they are veterans who were fighting to keep communism at bay and were trashed by a generation of college students whose motives are still under debate, many of whom themselves embraced Karl Marx’ communist socialist policies. At least one of them is currently running for president. Personally, I believe their politics were wrong then and they’re still wrong. Enemies don’t stop fighting and back down because we yell “peace.”
Honey’s great-grandfather, George Wesley Brock, at the age of 16, volunteered to preserve the United part of USA in the War Between the States. Geo.Wesley’s grandfather, also a George, fought in the War of 1812, the “second revolution” against Britan’s attempt to recapture us, was himself captured by Indians sympathetic to Britain and survived a gauntlet because he said, “I’m half Indian.” My father wore the army uniform in WWII to defeat two nations who would destroy our freedoms. His great, great grandfather, John Murphy, Sr, fought to create a free nation in the Revolutionary War at Valley Forge as did his father-in-law, William Cooke.
So, which veterans are we honoring and if you say “all” are you limiting the celebration to those who served in combat in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, The Gulf War, and Iraq? What about Bosnia? Afghanistan? What about the desk jockeys, and those who put in duty in Germany in peacetime? Anybody who’s worn the uniform, whether he or she is shooting a gun or working at the PX, signed a contract that committed them to following orders, giving up their right to free speech, and going wherever and whenever, even at the cost of their lives.
Honey enlisted in the Navy in 1968 while Viet Nam was still in full swing. He signed the contract, put on the uniform and boarded ship. He’s a veteran by definition #2. This morning he had the privilege of honoring men and women in our congregation as well as veterans in general. This is what he wrote:
Today on the Veterans Day we gather together around the Lord’s table to give a tribute to our forefathers who paved the way for the freedoms we so richly enjoy today. But more importantly, we come here today to honor a savior who died for our eternal freedom.
Today, we salute the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel for their mission.
We remember the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
We honor the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and then teaching them how to watch each others’ backs.
We salute the barroom loudmouth, dumber than a box of rocks, whose overgrown fratboy behavior is outweighed a hundred times by four hours of exquisite behavior near the 38th parallel.
We remember the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
We remember the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket–palsied now and aggravatingly slow–who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife was still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
We remember our Navy signalman who still holds close a tear stained picture of a best friend who lost his life in the line of duty.
Yes, we honor the ordinary, yet extraordinary human beings who offered some of life’s most vital years in the service of their country, and sacrificed all of their life’s ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
Most importantly, we honor and remember the greatest soldier of all, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came to earth to fight the Good Fight, Who took up the sword of righteousness on behalf of all mankind and became the greatest testimony this world has ever known for the greatest promise ever given.