November 11, 2009


Veterans Day

I asked a friend whom I knew to be a veteran what
Veterans Day meant to him-and I listened
carefully to what he had to say:

"I don’t know quite where to begin,” he said slowly,
“For me, the meaning is in my heart.”
“I am proud to be an American who responded to my country’s call
and when called upon, I did my part.
Did I fight for freedom? Yes! our politicians will tell you,
as they strut and pontificate this Veteran’s Day.
Flags and red, white and blue bunting will adorn their platforms
as they glamorize sending young Americans into harm’s way.”

“Did I fight for your freedom? Its very difficult to say.
I have to remind you of a sign that adorns a place nearby,
Placed prominently on the green of the Boise Veterans Hospital.
In bold letters that have made some cry,
It says in patriotic language so noble and so American,
But many of the veterans who visit there will be reluctant to tell you-
Only if you have been in combat, is that message really clear.”

“Did I fight for your freedom? Hell no! is my first response.
I fought for the lives of friends and comrades caught in dark places.
Under fire, and besieged with stress unknown to most,
Killing other men and never quite able to forget they had faces.
Unable to have the luxury of grief for good friends suddenly dead,
your particular freedom nor anyone else's ever crossed my mind.
At least not then, and would not even now as I ponder these thoughts,
except, somehow, reason has to be found for those left behind.”

“Did I fight for your freedom? I guess I did, and mine too.
Some understanding person, maybe who had even been there,
Realized Veterans needed their day, a day of parades, remembrances
small American flags on Veterans graves, help for the cross we bear.
Freedom, the word is over used, but maybe appropriate for Veterans Day,
gives a tangible reason why wars must be fought.
Do not forget, as sweet as the word freedom sounds and is over used,
Freedom as you know it was very dearly bought.”

Last night they came to see me in my deep sleep, still young while I am old.
Sweede, Mel, Roger, others, whispering approval of what I just told.

K. W. Andrus
Colonel, USMC (Ret)
Veterans Day, 1996

Having never served, I can't fully comprehend the very high price that has been paid for me to sit here and type as I wish.
Or for my children to be able to run around and be kids.
I am humbled mightily.

Saying "thank you" does not seem nearly enough, but for the moment, it's all I have.
Thank you.


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