Our freedom is written in the blood of these heroes, our soldiers.
Read this poem (hat tip Rut)
Thank you for your service, vets Kurt Schlichter, Washington Examiner (hat tip Katie O'Malley)Arriving home from the Gulf War, I walked through the San Francisco airport in uniform waiting for somebody to mouth off and get a fistful of payback for all the "baby-killer" taunts the Vietnam vets who trained me had endured.
But I've never heard a single slur. And after 9/11, the response from my fellow citizens whenever I wear my uniform while on reserve duty has become overwhelming.
All of us privileged to wear the uniform have felt it. You get hugs from grandmotherly types. You walk into stores and people shake your hand, saying "Thank you for your service."
Little kids salute. You go to a restaurant and the waiter tells you someone has already taken care of the check. I recently stopped at a Starbucks and an older lady tried to buy my Frappucino. It happened again the next day.
But the feeling is not universal. As the wars wind down, a backlash is stirring. Sometimes, "Thanks for your service" is whispered between clenched teeth.
Sometimes, a politician's mask will slip long enough to reveal what he really thinks. Sometimes, a filthy occupier will break away from the drum circle just long enough to spit on a passing servicewoman.
And sometimes it's wrapped up in the kind of babble you see from sociology professors at second-tier colleges.
A New York Times columnist recently fretted about the "cult of the uniform," suggesting that it "bespeaks a wounded empire's need to reassert its masculinity in the wake of 9/11."
Actually, it bespeaks the need to hunt down the bastards who murdered 3,000 Americans.
Before 9/11, the respect showed the troops stemmed in part from guilt. Everyone understood the shameful treatment returning Vietnam vets received from snarling protesters, who were less "anti-war" than anti-American. Normal citizens vowed not to let these punks pull a repeat performance when our forces marched home victorious from Desert Storm.
Since 9/11, every service member has joined up or re-enlisted knowing that America is at war. The younger ones do not remember a time when we were not engaged in combat.
They aren't aware that once hating the military was fashionable. They just know that they have the support of all decent Americans.
But for all the thanks they receive from regular folks, our troops are still a bit bewildered, if not embarrassed, by the fuss. I know I am. After all, most of us are far from the medal-wearing heroes our president honors on the news.
The vast majority do not get shot at every day, but their sacrifice (and that of their families) is real. My daughter was less than six months old when I left last time and nearly two when I got home - she called me "Tio" because, after living three-quarters of her life with her mom at the American-Cuban in-laws' home, she thought the strange new guy with a bad haircut must be another one of her uncles.
We're not all war heroes, but we are proud of what we've done and proud to be among the small number of Americans able to wear the uniform.
So go ahead and thank a soldier, a sailor, an airman, a Marine or a Coast Guardsman. Shake their hands. If you feel so inclined, buy him or her a cup of coffee or a beer -- just reserve that favor for the young troops who do the real work.
But on this Veterans Day, let us thank you -- for your support, and for giving us the chance to serve.
Kurt Schlichter served in Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom (Kosovo). The views expressed here are his own.