For the past week, as I drove through the meandering roads around here, I struggled with a way to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day. This weekend brings that issue into focus of course, and because of my family ties to the military I have always felt an affection and responsibility to the current generation of young soldiers, but also felt privileged to have known so many honorable and decent veterans from other generations.

             Many of them have passed on, at least in my own life, and it has become apparent that soon, the rest will join their comrades who fell in places all over this earth, from Normandy to Inchon, Khe Sanh to Fallugah…

            They were all different. From different towns, ethnicities, orientations and religions. Despite that, they bonded together in a brotherhood as strong as any and one that only veterans or those who risk their lives for the common good  can truly understand.

             So, instead of posting pictures of marching bands, or writing about my own experiences, I decided to take the time to sit and talk with four of them in the past two weeks, to see how they honor the memories that were seared into their minds so many decades ago. To listen to the stories of lost buddies and wild R & R’s in foreign lands. To laugh and to grieve, for much of what I heard had been held inside for many decades, lest the light make the pain unbearable. All four were from different branches of the military.

               It has been a bittersweet  few weeks. I suppose one might say that it’s not easy to find comfort in the reality of war, and the consequences of lives cut short. Children left fatherless. Injuries and impairments carried through life quietly. The emotional burden of having seen things that noone should ever see.

               I came away humbled, and must admit to moments of personal melancholy. After all, 43 years creates scars but the talk of battles and young men dying before they have really lived, reminded me … Well, let’s just say that we owe all of them more than can ever be paid…

               I’ll post this now, understanding that it is, at best, a poor tribute to those who gave so much that we might live free. I hope that those of you who are fortunate enough to know of or even live with a veteran, will make the effort to do one simple thing. Tell him, or her, ‘Thank You’, for the service that means so much to all of us. Don’t be surprised if that brings a tear or two, followed by a firm jaw and then, silence.