Severe: What does it mean to be a military veteran? (column) |

Severe: What does it mean to be a military veteran? (column)

As Veterans Day approaches, I am sitting in my office viewing a picture of some of the men with whom I served in the United States Air Force. We were in Primary Flight training at Marana Air Base (now Pinal Airpark) Class of 58E. As young men in our early twenties, we viewed life through a different prism than today as octogenarians. We had a military obligation and uncertain future, not knowing whether we would be at war, again, with the Cold War adversaries Russia and China. Our father’s generation (the greatest generation) and those slightly older than us fought on the battlefields of WWII and Korea.

The picture on my desk was taken at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2000. It was one of many reunions held by our group. Of the fourteen “brothers” pictured, five have since passed away. And, at least three have significant health problems. So, like veterans before our time, our numbers are dwindling.

There is something very special about being a military veteran. It is a feeling of accomplishment having served our country. As stated by American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster, members of the military forces “sign a blank check payable to our country for an amount up to and including their very lives.” The destiny of members of uniformed services are placed is in the hands of the nation’s leaders. Those serving and have served pledged to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Some have paid the ultimate price, they died for their country, forfeiting the right to ever again see family and friends. In some cases, they died before they were old enough to vote. Some others, who have survived, pay a price every day of their lives having suffered horrendous injuries and experiencing PTSD 24/7.

When a veteran visits national cemeteries, there is a feeling for many that “there but for the grace of god go I” honoring those who have gone before us and knowing some day we will be joining our “brothers and sisters in arms.”

As we walk through the doors of American Legion and/or VFW Posts, there is a feeling of kinship and respect, for we all have one thing in common, we served our country when called upon to do so. In many instances, we were not given a choice. It was our call to duty.

When I walk the hallways of the Veterans Affairs medical facilities, there is a feeling of respect for one another. This is echoed by the employees who provide the medical attention. In those instances, it doesn’t matter previous rank or branch of service. What matters is that we are brothers and sisters in arms.

Several years ago, while attending an air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a veterans group was distributing ball caps inscribed “Thank A Veteran.” Occasionally, I wear it with pride. It is a sign of the times. During the Vietnam war, veterans were villified by members of the public. But now, they are now appreciated. I have observed people thanking veterans for their service quite frequently. It is heart warming to hear those words from fellow Americans.

We enjoy the freedoms granted under the U.S. Constitution because of the men and women willing to serve their country in the military services. With so many military veterans in and around Summit County, we have the opportunity to pay tribute and honor them this Veterans Day.

Don Severe lives in Dillon.

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