By Pfc. Justin Mills, 3rd SB Public AffairsNovember 17, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - People line the street, sitting in lawn chairs or on the curb. American flags wave and cheers are raised as men and women march down the road. The Colors approach and a lone figure can be seen rising in the crowd. With a great deal of effort, he unsteadily and slowly stands, pushing off on his wheelchair as he makes his way to his feet.
As the Colors pass, he raises his right arm to salute and suddenly he no longer appears frail, but stands rock solid. As those around him sit and watch in awe, this once fragile looking man stands like a pillar, unshakable and set in his resolve, as he pays respect not only to his country but to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I remember the first time I saw a photo of the above scene and how touched I was. The amount of effort this man put into an act that is so simple for the rest of us but means so much to those he was honoring spoke volumes to me.
My father, a man I respect deeply and who I look to as what a man should be, and both my grandfathers served their country. I was raised with beliefs and morals that, I later realized, were deeply rooted in our Army Values. Chief among these was respect, especially for my elders and those who served before me. However, I didn't realize the extent of the sacrifices made by veterans until I joined the military, myself.
Somewhere along the line we have lost sight of the true meaning of Veterans' Day. To many it has become just another holiday that affords us an extra day off from work and nothing more. It is important for us to remember that our great country was built on the shoulders of our veterans. Their blood, sweat and tears are the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which America stands.
Our veterans can be found everywhere, from walking the halls of congress to standing on the street corner holding the sign asking for your spare change, and they all deserve our respect and thanks no matter their current station in life. As Soldiers we have a greater understanding of the sacrifices made so it is our duty to not only extend our respect but also educate others on the true meaning of the holiday this Veterans' Day.
So remember the men and women who have worn this uniform before you. If you're at a parade with Soldiers passing by, stand up and show your respect and encourage others around you to do so as well. Take the extra time to go and shake that veteran's hand and thank them for their service. Years from now when you are walking down the street in that parade you may fully understand the impact these simple acts of gratitude have on the hearts of our brave veterans.