Who Becomes a Veteran ?

An American Boy Grows Up

Our son was born so long ago, yet it seems like yesterday...
that I stood in awe before his crib and heard that doctor say,
"You've quite a boy there Mr. Jones." I could only answer with a nod,
for in his very being there I saw the miracle of God.

Later in his high chair, in a manner I deplore,
I saw that Miracle of God throw his oatmeal on the floor.
Well, I fixed him something different, for I felt he must be fed,
but when I turned around again, that bowl was on his head!

A few more years rolled along and he didn't spill things anymore.
But his grandad sent a big bass drum, and once more I deplored
The fact that my miracle of God, had a lusty taste for noise!
When he'd boom! boom! boom! on that big bass drum, I questioned, boys must be boys?

I asked his whereabouts one day...his Mom said, "He's got a paper route,"
"said he'd help to earn his way as he became an eagle scout."
When they pinned that medal on him, tears welled in my eyes,
and then I gripped his mother's hand, our boy had earned his prize.

I won't forget that September day, when he entered senior high,
he had an air of great excitement, but he left home with a sigh.
He came back that afternoon, and gave us some puzzled looks,
"Wow!", he said, "this school is tough, look at all these books!"

"The choice is yours," his mother said, "You can pick the easy way."
"What you put into life, you'll get out of it. Each man pays his price one day."
He looked up, and then he smiled, and I saw he'd lost his gloom,
He said, "I'd better look at these," he headed for his room.

My son came home late one day. He seemed all worn out.
I asked a little sharply what this was all about.
He spoke proudly and threw his shoulders back, and in his eyes I caught a gleam.
"I wanted to surprise you Dad, I'm on the football team!"

They won most of their games, lost a few, it was a thrill to watch him play.
And when they didn't win we knew, he'd met the challenge anyway.
He didn't know it at the time, but, it was a stepping stone,
solid footing for the climb, to face life on his own.

How those three years flew past, when graduation came,
we saw our boy grown up at last, our lives will never be the same.
I guess we've known all along what his goal would be,
from that time three years ago, when he chose responsibility.

He stood in the doorway yesterday, put out a strong right hand.
I held back tears at the uniform he wore to protect his land.
I shook his hand, his mother cried, "Son, why couldn't you wait?"
Embracing her, he softly said, "Mom, if we all did, it would be too late."

"I promise I'll go back to school, when I've met my obligation,
to you, my friends, my girl, my school, and most of all this nation."
"I'll do all I can out there, for I know you'll both be trying,
to make everyone you know aware, we've got to keep Old Glory flying."

And then his mother straightened up, with a smile to hide a tear.
She said, "we're both so proud of you, we'll feel lost without you here."
Someday, you'll know what this moment means, when your boy shakes your hand,
And you watch him as he walks away, the day he becomes a man."




  Veterans Day Message from

The Honorable Anthony J. Principi

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

November 11, 2004

***

Have you thanked a veteran today?

 

We are blessed, as Americans, to live in a nation gifted with rights and freedoms envied the world over. Those rights and freedoms did not come cheaply. Have you thanked a veteran today?

 We are the beneficiaries of a struggle for independence from which we emerged as a nation of many States joined together as one shining Republic. Have you thanked a veteran today?

 We rise every morning empowered by a land of opportunities made rich and plentiful by a vigorous and open economic, agricultural, and industrial marketplace.  We enjoy a bounty of goods and services unmatched in all the world. Have you thanked a veteran today?

 We expand our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us in myriad kindergartens, elementary, middle, and high schools, and institutions of higher learning unparalleled in their accessibility to virtually every citizen who seeks the keys to education. Have you thanked a veteran today?

 As we have just demonstrated to the world, Americans choose the men and women who represent us in our local, state, and national governments—from county commissioners to the President. And any of us who seek office, or who have an opinion about those who do,  are encouraged and welcome to take to the floor of the political arena—small or great—defining the very essence of our unique, and enduring, Democracy. Have you thanked a veteran today?

 We constantly refill and express our creative spirits in countless libraries, theaters, auditoriums, museums, and galleries wherein our literary, performing, and visual arts are displayed in all their variety, uncensored, and open to all. Have you thanked a veteran today?

 We clash on the gridirons of ten thousand stadiums; we shoot for the hoops on countless inner-city courts and in mighty arenas; we swing for the fences of small town diamonds and the walls of major league ball parks; we run, we swim, we play, we exert ourselves individually and competitively in a nation where we are free as men and women and boys and girls to celebrate the independent spirit of athletics. Have you thanked a veteran today? 

And we bow our heads, kneel on prayer rugs, and lift our voices in holy songs in mighty cathedrals, elegant churches, simple chapels, and in synagogues and mosques all across our nation, secure in the knowledge that our beliefs are sacred and our right to worship in our own way—or not to worship at all—is revered and protected.  Have you thanked a veteran today?

At day’s end, we sit down to dinner, in communities large and small, and share with our neighbors the immutable constancy of our freedom to raise our families under liberty’s open skies, and to fall asleep beneath the comforting blankets of our democracy. Have you thanked a veteran today?

 Today, Veterans Day, 2004, let us seize this opportunity and offer our heartfelt ‘thank you’ to America’s former soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen. For 228 years, they protected the rich and seamless fabric of Freedom woven on the loom of conflict, washed in the blood of patriots, and preserved in times of peace through their fidelity in service to the cause of Liberty.

Forty-eight million of our fellow citizens earned our gratitude by donning our nation’s uniform. They are our ancestors laid down in their eternal resting places. They are the Greatest Generation. They are our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our neighbors, and our countrymen across the nation. They are our warriors still missing in action, and they are our former Prisoners of War finally released to Liberty’s loving arms. And they are our armed forces on the front lines of Freedom half a world away.  

 On this Veterans Day, we thank them all.