When you see the flag unfolding,
Gently waving in the air;
Look closely at the stars and stripes,
And you will see them there.
In the red, you see the blood they shed,
So our country could be free;
Each life who gave is in the stripe,
That speaks of liberty.
In the white you see the valor,
Of those we won't forget;
The pristine clearness of each stripe,
A silent witness to each Vet.
And there behind the fifty stars,
A solemn field of blue;
A tribute to the tears we shed,
For the brave, the tried, the true.
So, when you see the stars and stripes,
The red, the white, the blue;
Remember those it represents,
The brave, the tried, the true.
Allison Chambers Coxsey, 2000
Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a Vet just by looking. What is a vet?
He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel. He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.
She - or he - is the Nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.
He is the Quantico Drill Instructor teaching marines to watch each other's backs.
He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket... palsied now and aggravatingly slow...who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being...a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say "Thank You". That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
Two little words that mean a lot,