Friday, November 9, 2012

what is a veteran

When you think of veterans, what picture comes to mind?  A ticker tape parade in NYC welcoming the soldiers back home?  The invasion on Normandy beach?  Pearl Harbor?  GIs in green tents in Korea?  The Vietnam wall in DC?  Your hometown parade, a chance to get out of school?  The boy next door who went to Iraq

 Are the images in your mind from movies or television shows or from your family album? 

Being an Army brat myself, I appreciate the unique education one receives living with and around those that serve our country. The unreserved respect and lack of prejudice exhibited by my parents (pictured above) and hopefully passed on to me was gleaned from years of working with people from all over the world, from all walks of life, races, colors, and religions. 

In our family the word veteran not only conjures up faded black and white images of those veterans past, but a veteran in the making - our nephew Jesse is a new Marine, he made it through boot camp and is heading out tomorrow for his first assignment - 4 years in Hawaii.  I know, poor Jesse, maybe he can tolerate it somehow. 

Granddaughter Madison won the Veterans Day essay contest at school.  So what if the reason for her entry was the $50 savings bond prize - her thoughts on freedom and veterans are real and well expressed.  She is carrying on the family tradition of winning Veterans Day contests - her older sister Racheal won the poster contest back in 2005!  And today Racheal is singing with the high school chorus at the Veterans Day celebration on the town square, where Madison will be reading her award-winning essay:

How do you define freedom? One source defines it as “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or physical restraint”; another source states that it is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint”.

These definitions, along with many others, include what you are able to do and what you have the right to do. What about the people who made your freedom possible? Do you think about those who gave us our freedom? Being a teenager, I often think about the definition of freedom, not about those who gave us those rights. But being the daughter of two navy veterans with many veteran relatives, I also think about those who fought for our rights and the rights of others.

            After being told the theme for this year’s contest, I had this question pop into my head, “Well, what does freedom take?” I look at the qualities in veterans today and see integrity, honor, passion, and so many more. Those are the results of being a part of something much larger than them. Those are the results of doing things that we cannot even imagine. We look at veterans and we do not fully realize what they have gone through or what they have done for us and others. These people we call veterans risked their lives to fight for someone other than themselves. They risked everything because they wanted to.  Whether they were in active duty or reserves, whether they were in combat zones or behind the intelligence operation, they still did whatever it took to complete their mission.  They risked whatever it took for freedom. Would you? I am.  ~Madison 10th grade

I am proud of the teenagers in our family - they have it together, see the big picture!  These teens represent the next generation of Americans and Veterans, and apparently they learned something from their ancestors, carrying on traditions, like Madison said - I see integrity, honor, passion and hope in this next generation!

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