They never ask for it, but wouldn’t it make you both feel good on this Veterans Day if you happened to cross paths with a vet and offered a simple “Thanks!”
They’d probably reply, “For what?”
An Army veteran of World War II named Charles Province provided that answer in a magnificent poem, “It Is The Soldier,” noting:
“It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial;
“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press;
“It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to protest.”
It goes on, but you get the point.
Vets don’t ask for thanks, which is just as well, because they don’t receive a lot of it.
Did you know that Johnny Most, the “Voice of the Celtics” for 37 seasons, was an aerial gunner on B-24s, flying 28 combat missions with the 15th Air Force in WWII, earning seven medals?
Did you know that Ned Martin, the “Voice of the Red Sox” for 32 seasons, was a radio lineman on Iwo Jima with the 4th Marine Division when he heard the thrilling news our flag had just been hoisted on Mount Surabichi?
No? That’s because they never talked about it.
That’s why you probably also didn’t know Channel 5’s Don Gillis, who pioneered sports segments on TV newscasts in 1962, was a Navy control man aboard the battleship Missouri where he watched Japanese Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu formally surrender to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Gillis was 23 that day; Martin was 19 the day he learned Old Glory had just been raised; Most was 21 when he flew those perilous sorties over central Italy.
“We were looked upon as heroes when we got home,” Gillis once recalled.
“If we walked through a train station wearing our uniforms strangers would come up to us to offer a cigarette or buy us a cup of coffee. We were just men and women who’d done a patriotic thing by going off to fight for our country. It’s so different now.”
Indeed, it is.
But what’s not different, as Province wrote, is that, “It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag who allows the protestor to burn the flag.”
Or even to take a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Look at the faces of the young Americans wearing our country’s colors today, prepared to give their last full measure of devotion.
It makes no difference where American blood was shed — Guadalcanal, Munsan-Ni, Pleiku, Fallujah — we owe everything we love and treasure to our veterans.
Surely, a “Thank you!” is in order, wouldn’t you agree?
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