Respect, Honor and Gratitude

Like all recurring dates as you get older, they seem to come faster and faster.  It is no different with Veterans Day.  The only difference is that I think about this significance of this “holiday” more than I did as a young man.
I am not a veteran.  It is not that I did not want to serve, but rather that I came along at a time when peace was finally arriving for a war weary nation after Vietnam.   The military became an all-volunteer force 40 years ago this past July, shortly after I graduated from college.
Those veterans were not all treated so kindly after returning home.  They weren’t shown the respect that each one of them deserved.  Yes, this was a different time, and a different war.  However, total respect is due to any person who puts their own life at risk to serve their country.
It seems to me that military veterans are indeed shown more respect around the country today.  As I am traveling, I frequently see active duty servicemen and women receive applause as they walk through the airport or enter a plane.  
Honor is much like respect, but deeper.  I tend to think of respect as something you do but honor as something you feel.  As a child, I respected my father in part because he demanded it.  He was the boss in our house and we both knew it.   
As I got older, I realized what the biblical commands about honoring your father and mother were really about.  I realized the depth of our relationship required more than just respect.   
It is the same with our veterans.  We may respect them because it is the right and proper thing to do.  When we honor a veteran, it is a deeper appreciation for that person and their contributions.  I tend to think that I respect a soldier in uniform but I honor the person in that uniform.  
Finally, there is gratitude.  There are many definitions to this word.  I appreciate what our veterans have done.  I am thankful for their service.  I give all veterans credit for stepping up and doing something that I never had to do.  
It all seems painfully inadequate when you think about it.  The words don’t really convey how I feel about veterans as I get older.  
I would have never imagined I would have lived through as many wars as the world has seen since Vietnam.  I would have never imagined that our all-volunteer service would have lasted 40 years.  Having gone through all that, I cannot imagine how our country could have remained a beacon of freedom and a source for hope for everyone around the world had it not been for the selfless service of millions of Americans who served when called.
I ask you then to reflect on how your life is better because of the veterans you know and the veterans you never met.  Freedom has a cost.  Some pay a higher price than others.
To every veteran who has served this great nation, I can only offer these words that come from the depth of my heart.  You have my deepest respect, my highest honor and my heartfelt gratitude on this Veterans Day.
o0o
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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