by Andy Weddington
Friday, 11 November 2011 / Veterans Day
"A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of up to and including their life.” Author Unknown
Returning home from a quiet evening out last night with my wife toasting, dining, and celebrating the Marine Corps birthday, I found the following posted on my Facebook wall:
"So..I know I'm not much of a poet..But in honor of the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day, I thought I would share a poem that I wrote for English class. Thank you to all who have served and are currently serving in our military.
Thanks To Our Veterans
Little did I know
On that bright June day
I would get an opportunity
That would change my ways
I was off to Girls Nation
In the blink of an eye
To make many new friends
Maybe meet a new guy!
I arrived in DC
To a busy itinerary
Which included meeting Obama, watching the Senate
And giving speeches, how scary!
I was taken off guard
When we started to eat
When an announcement was made
That made us freeze in our seats.
“Tomorrow we’ll visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed,”
said Director Vicki, as she began to advise.
I did not realize then
How this experience would open my eyes.
As we boarded the bus,
I got a feeling of dread.
“Would this event be sad?” I pondered
Thoughts raced through my head.
As we got off the bus,
I looked all around.
Soldiers with every imaginable injury
Covered the hospital grounds.
Though many missed limbs or deformed facial features,
That were covered with hairstyles,
They all had one thing in common:
Enthusiastic, infectious smiles.
We mingled with the warriors,
Finding home states and favorite teams in common
Being very cautious, though,
Not to offend or over-help them.
Many were open, describing
The explosions that caused their injury.
As I sat there listening,
I could no longer find ANY reason behind my misery.
As we lined up for the bus,
After saying goodbye,
I thought of their selfless sacrifice
And I started to cry.
As my tears continued,
I heard a rough voice.
“Please don’t cry, sweetheart.
This life was my choice.”
I could see in him,
As in all those I met
A sense of great pride in country
And desire to remove any threat.
I realized my new friends
That I talked with that night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers
Who were so willing to fight.
Now, back at school
I honor and thank them all
With a new sense of patriotism
That will forever stand tall."
The author is a high school senior.
Her father is a veteran--U. S. Air Force. Both grandfathers are veterans--U. S. Air Force. She has aunts and uncles that are veterans--U. S. Navy, U. S. Marine Corps, U. S. Coast Guard. And she has extended family that are veterans--U. S. Army, and the other branches, too. Their collective years of service to country easily eclipses two hundred. Pile on hundreds more years for the family members who did not wear a uniform but shared in the sacrifices, fears, and hardships of duty.
Though she had a vague idea about military service, it was not until visiting with wounded warriors--many of them young Marines not so much older than her--as part of the Girls Nation program that the selfless sacrifices of those who volunteer to serve moved beyond an idea. Those few hours with America's real heroes, patriots, were life-changing. Of course.
She now deeply understands, appreciates, and respects the colors of our land--that star-spangled banner. And the pledge we recite in allegiance.
Some things in our country are going exactly right. And Kailey Pickitt, author of "Thanks To Our Veterans", is one shining example.
Citizenship. And now the responsibility of leadership.
Through her, and many like her, and those willing to don a uniform, to write that blank check, America will not only survive she'll endure.
Kailey Pickitt is my niece. Thank you, Kailey, for a memorable 10 November and Veterans Day. Forward, March!
In George Orwell's words...
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."