Validation for Veterans | Teen Ink

Validation for Veterans

January 1, 2008
By Anonymous

Validation for Veterans

Wikipedia defines a veteran as one who has served in the armed forces and has an honorable discharge ( A veteran means so much more than that to me. Its description should not be so shallow as to limit one of the most appreciated groups of history and today. When the term veteran is brought up most people think of someone who had fought in a war. If you asked me what I thought a veteran was I would say, "Think old everyone (past and present) who had given up or risked something or everything for the sake of their nation." A veteran does not have to be just a person who once wore a decorated uniform or fought in a war; a veteran is the condition of that person’s heart. For someone to have courage, bravery, and the chivalry to stand up for what for what they believe in they have paved the road for a better future for all of us. I would not have thought this way of veterans if I had not been influenced by the people who have contributed to who I am today.

One person whose story still amazes me to this day is my grandfather’s. I have never met him before, but the story I hear of him gives me confidence that there are still people who still have strong values and beliefs. My mother decided to tell me about my grandfather when I was starting high school and mature enough to understand and appreciate what my grandfather did. When my mother was young, my grandfather decided to speak out against communism in Vietnam, his home country. During those times, publicly expressing your opposition towards communism meant forfeiting your life. My grandfather was an intelligent, but stubborn man knowing fully well what he was doing; he could not bear to keep the injustices of what the communist were doing to him, his family, and his community. One day he decided to speak out against communism and was instantly seized by the communists. They made his execution a public spectacle, but he gladly gave up his life to show everyone communism’s inequity and to give everyone courage. Event though he was not part of the army or fought in a war, the fact that he stood up for his people and country he gained the right to be called a veteran.

Unlike my grandfather, my father was part of the army and had fought in the Vietnam War. He was still very young at the time and had his entire life in front of him, like most cases of most soldiers of the time, but he chose to fight knowing he can make a difference. I cannot imagine all the fear, hunger, exhaustion, and loneliness he had to endure during his three years on the battlefield, but I admire his strength for doing so. My dad survived, but he left with a long lasting injury. My father had lost his right thumb during a battle, leaving his right hand close to useless. To this day my father struggles to do daily things we often take for granted. Every time I see him fumbling to do something, it brings a tear to my eye, but I know it brings pride to his heart. He has never complained about the pain and everyday how hard it is for him to raise me and my brothers; he makes it look so easy when I know it is not. He is reminded everyday of what he has given up for his country. He is a veteran because he has more honor than anyone else I know.

Despite having two selfless people who have served their country, my impression of the United States armed forces did not change until I joined JROTC. My superficial thinking was that my family was different from everyone in the army in the sense that they had a real life besides an army life. Soldiers were robots of the government who knew what they were getting themselves into and forfeited their life confidently and willingly. Just like soldiers, my father and grandfather risked their life but I thought the similarities ended there. I was wrong. After meeting and getting to know some soldiers and retires, I learned that they were the same as us. They get scared when they are in a frightened, they get sad when they see others hurt, but more importantly they treasure their life as much as we do. They had a life of their own to live: their life was not so empty as they could have afforded to give it away. It was filled with things and people they cherish and they wished to protect it. The only difference is that they made the outstanding sacrifices and strong stands for their country.

Not everyone considers what a veteran exactly is all the same, but that is okay as long as those who should be acknowledged are. What makes you a veteran is not what you are a part of or what you wear, but what you have done for your country. I am affected by everyone I met and heard about. Now I have a newfound appreciation of the United States armed services and veterans like my father and grandfather. I live everyday knowing that life is a gift and that is exactly what it is: a gift from the veterans who have risked everything so we do not have to. So on Veterans Day, on day out of the year, do not ask what they are or who they were, but is this enough?

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