My guest today wrote an all-encompassing description of a veteran – could be any of us – well worth reading.  

by Walt Ritter

We left home as teenagers for an unknown adventure. We loved our country enough to defend it and protect it with our own life. We said goodbye to friends and family and everything we knew. We learned the basics and then we scattered in the wind to the far corners of the Earth.    

We found new friends and a new family. We became brothers and sisters. We had plenty of good times, and plenty of bad times. We didn’t get enough sleep. We smoked and drank too much. We picked up both good and bad habits. We worked hard, and played harder. We didn’t earn a great wage. We experienced the happiness of mail call and the sadness of missing important events.    

We didn’t know when or even if we were ever going to see home again. We grew up fast, and yet somehow, we never grew up at all. We fought for our freedom as well as the freedom of others. Some of us saw actual combat, and some of us didn’t. Some of us saw the world, and some of us didn’t. Some of us dealt with physical warfare, most of us dealt with psychological warfare. We have seen and experienced and dealt with things that we can’t fully describe or explain.    

Not all of our sacrifices were physical. We participated in time-honored ceremonies and rituals with each other, strengthening our bonds and camaraderie. We counted on each other to get our job done and sometimes to survive it at all. We have dealt with victory and tragedy. We have celebrated and mourned. We lost a few along the way.    

When our adventure was over, some of us went back home, some of us started somewhere new. Some of us never came home at all. We have told amazing and hilarious stories of our exploits and adventures. We share an unspoken bond with each other that most people don’t have and few will understand.    

We speak highly of our own branch of service and poke fun at the other branches. But we know that if needed, we will be there for our brothers and sisters and stand together as one in a heartbeat. Being a veteran is something that had to be earned, and it can never be taken away. It has no monetary value, but at the same time it is a priceless gift.    

People see a veteran and they thank them for their service. When we see each other, we give that little upwards head nod, or a slight smile, knowing that we have shared and experienced things that most people have not.    

So from myself to the rest of the veterans out there, I commend and thank you for all that you have done and sacrificed for your country. Try to remember the good times, and forget the bad times. Share your stories. But most importantly, stand tall and proud, for you have earned the right to be called a Veteran.    

Thank you to all my brothers and sisters for your sacrifices while serving…

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