I was honored when an old family friend, Chuck Katlic, asked me to speak at yesterday’s Veterans Day observance. As I prepared my remarks, I stopped to think:
Exactly who are the veterans that we honor on this day each year?
To better understand, I looked up the definition of “veteran” in the dictionary. The term comes from the Latin word, vetus, which means old. Well, I certainly fit that definition. To further research the definition, I went to the all-knowing and ultimate source of knowledge — Google. There it said that a veteran was anyone who has served in the Armed Forces.
From a legal standpoint, as I recall, the time served to qualify as a veteran is 180 days of active duty, along with a discharge under honorable conditions.
The veteran I think of has known sacrifice, loneliness, danger, deprivation, fear, and exhaustion that the average person can never comprehend. Furthermore, the veteran is a person who has sacrificed a portion of their lives in order that all Americans can live in freedom and prosperity. Veterans have interrupted schooling, careers, and families in order to serve. Each of us have only a finite number of days on earth, and yet the veteran has donated part of his or her time for the benefit of others.
Perhaps the most accurate definition of a veteran is one that we have frequently seen posted on the internet. It states, “These young men and women at a point in their lives signed a blank check payable to the United States of America in an amount up to and including their very lives. “
Exactly how many veterans do we have? According to the Census Bureau, we estimate that we currently have just over 21 million veterans. This is 6.8 percent or approximately 1 in 15 Americans. Statistics for the State of Texas are similar, though slightly less. Here in Parker County, we stand out for our patriotism and service to our nation. 10 percent of our residents of Parker Co. are veterans.
As I stated before, veterans currently comprise a small proportion of the nation’s population, but those presently serving are less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the nation. During previous wars these numbers were much higher.
As a sad reflection on our society, today about 75 percent of the nation’s 17- to 24-year-olds are ineligible for military service, largely because they are poorly educated, overweight, have physical ailments, history of drug use, criminal records, or mental problems that make them unfit for the armed forces. Yes, our veterans are indeed special.
Let us pray that the Lord be kind on the older veterans of the Greatest Generation like my friend Chuck, those of the Korean Conflict, those of my generation — the Vietnam era, and those who have served in Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We also ask that He protect and bless those youngsters who are still serving while battling terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the rest of the world.
America is truly blessed to have so many of our finest young men and women willing to sacrifice so much.
So few giving so much to benefit so many...
God bless them, and God Bless America.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to email@example.com.