Today, as in previous years, the annual Veterans Day Observance I attended included a reading* entitled, “What Is a Veteran?” According to its author, Anthony Barton Hinkle, the answers are as varied as the veterans themselves. A veteran may be the “old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket,” or “the parade-riding legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.” As Hinkle points out, “Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg – or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul’s alloy forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept
wear no badge or emblem. You can’t tell a vet just by looking.”
As Hinkle so rightly concludes, a veteran “is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being – a person who offered some of his [or her] life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.”
I’m very thankful for the service each veteran has given, and I’m glad that each November 11th people all over this great country assemble to pay tribute to them and to thank them for helping ensure the freedoms we enjoy.
*An editorial that first appeared in 1995 in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.