How much pain does a veteran withstand? We all carry different burdens, but to illustrate… my knees and back are completely wrecked from jumping out of airplanes, rappelling down ridiculous heights, and humping ludicrously heavy rucksacks. My doc tells me that a Green Beret is essentially a professional athlete. Too true… but I would extend that to all the combat arms. My hearing is deficient because of all the firefights (no time to put in hearing protection). I still carry shrapnel from an Iraqi rocket and am weakened in my right side by a bullet that knocked the crap out of me during an ambush (didn’t penetrate my armor… take that you bastards!) I am a young man with gray hair. I’ve lost a wife to operational tempo. I missed numerous birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings, and other important dates. My family is proud, but tired. I didn’t get to get much college in, so was a student into my 30s. My old civilian friends all owned houses a decade before I managed to save enough to buy my own. The pay sucks. The medical support sucks (a case study against socialized medicine BTW)… AND you can’t have a beer in a combat zone.
I am not unique. All my brothers and sisters in uniform know the sacrifice that defines military life. I’ve told some of my story because it illustrates to civilians what sort of things that we all live with. It isn’t comprehensive by any means, just some of the things that I am thinking about today. Oh, the other thing that we veterans carry with us the rest of our lives? Pride.
I salute all veterans, past and present. De oppresso libre.