U.S. military veterans were recognized for their service during a Veterans Day event on Chardon Square this morning. Known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month marks the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918 when the Armistice with Germany took effect.
Capt. Charles Brown, USMC, delivered the keynote address. He focused on the definition of a veteran, sharing with approximately 50 veterans and community members gathered at the steps of the Geauga County Courthouse the following words:
“Veterans are different. Veterans are not better, but veterans are different. Veterans Day and Memorial Day have two distinct and different purposes. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. Military veterans while Memorial Day is the day of remembering the men and women who died in service of our country.
What is a veteran? Being a lawyer, I went to the United States code. A person who served in the active military, naval or air service and who was discharged or released from there under conditions other than dishonorable. I don’t know about you, but that definition just doesn’t make it for me.
It means that I am a veteran if I did not get a BCD, that is a bad conduct discharge. That may be a lawyer’s definition, but it is not an adequate definition, in fact it is sorely lacking. I went looking for different definitions of veterans and I found two that I think are very appropriate and very adequate, particularly because they do not make any distinction between those who served in a time of peace and those who served in a time of war. The first one unfortunately we do not know who wrote it.
‘Whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve, a veteran is someone who at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their own life.’”
Brown then recited the definition by Father Denis Edward O’Brien, USMC.
“Some veterans bare visible signs of their service, a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain 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 ally forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept American safe wear no badge or emblem.
You can’t tell a vet just by looking at them. He is a cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day and making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel, he’s the barroom loudmouth dumber than five wooden planks who’s overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed 100 times in the cosmic scales by the four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel. She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to bed sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
He’s the POW who went away one person and came back another or didn’t come back at all. He is a Quantico drill instructor who had never seen combat, but who has saved countless lives by turning slouching, no-account red necks and gang members into marines and teaching them to watch each other’s back. He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prostetic hand. He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and metals pass him by.
He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknown, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.
He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket — palsied now and aggravatingly slow, who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being, a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.”
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