Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans Day and Thank You

One veteran's perspective

Article published Nov 11, 2007
One veteran's perspective
Veteran's Day means a lot to some, a little to others, nothing to many, and is often confused with Memorial Day by most.

While it is a day to honor those men and women who served in this nation's military, it is how the veteran perceives this day that might surprise those who, for one reason or another, never wore their country's uniform.

There are two distinct groups of veterans: those who served a tour in the military and then left to pursue civilian life, and those who chose the military as a profession and remained until retirement.

While service to one's country can often be a life-altering event for either group, I have found that it is the military retiree whose metamorphosis is most complete.

Those who serve and elect to return to civilian life are still basically who they were before they entered military service. There are exceptions of course, but those who return to civilian pursuits are once again the teacher, the mechanic, the professional business person and easily integrated back into society as a member of a civilian community.

The person that retires from active duty has no such identity, very rarely has ties to any civilian community and has learned a hard lesson that you make but very few close friends in the military. He is best defined not by who he was as a civilian but what he did in the military. It is the common thread that binds us all into that band of brothers that have stood for and with each other through indescribable experiences that defy understanding by those who were not witness to those events.

The more elite and demanding the units in which the retiree served, the greater the loss of his connection to civilian identity because there is just no parallel personal or professional civilian category into which he easily fits.

Things change over time, but over decades nothing is recognizable to most returning veterans. Many retirees' chosen path is not akin to a job but rather an all-consuming profession requiring total commitment to each other, their unit and the mission incurring significant, and sometimes unimaginable, physiological, psychological and personal costs.

Despite the portrayals in movies, there are no motivational sound tracks in the background and no glorious visions of striving for the greater good of God and country, just plain gut-wrenching emotions, pain, effort and selflessness to help each other get through to the next event.

I find it amusing that many folks who wish to honor veteran's or "support the troops" do so in blissful ignorance thinking that those of us that chose to serve stood on freedom's frontier at the behest of some ignominious military leader when the truth is that the military is the last card played by the politicians when all other elements of national power have failed. Civilians do not seem to understand that they have been stakeholders all along in the events experienced by veterans because of the very politicians that they have voted in or out of office. I have always thought that the best way to honor a veteran would be to have the entire Congress mustered on the veranda of Lee's Mansion within Arlington National Cemetery. Standing there they can see Washington, D.C., but in the process they have to over look the headstones of thousands of veterans lying in mute testimony to the folly of bad political decisions, political bickering and personal agendas.

It is not the veteran who needs Veteran's Day. For many of us the pride, the shadows, the pain and the tattered memories are with us every day. Veteran's Day is really for everyone other than the veteran so they never forget that we are still walking among them trying to be part of their lives although we have all willingly spent a good portion of ours by taking up the torch for those who could not or would not serve.

Jack Moroney is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel who served in Vietnam. He was an Army service member from 1965 through 1993.

Col Moroney was laid to rest in Arlington National with full military honors on Election day 2008. A true warrior poet who will be greatly missed.

RIP Col thanks to you and all Veterans on this day.