A Letter to Laura's school from Chuck "Doc" Stewart, Arizona
What the word Veteran means to me...
There are many meanings to the word Veteran but to me the word Veteran means comradeship...brotherhood. It is much like you with your school friends. You see each other everyday and some of you might become lifelong friends to one another. This is much the same way with a veteran. Especially a war veteran.
Most soldiers are young when our country goes to war and for many it is their first time away from home. Here they are in a far off land with no friends or family and they must quickly adapt to these new surroundings. It is a very scary feeling. A soldier can be brave and still be scared.
In many cases this time away from home lasts for several months and even years. All this time we are away from our loved ones. In a war zone we learn to watch each others backs. We are ready to lay down our life for our country in order to maintain the freedom that the citizens of our country have always known. This also holds true with the men and women we serve with. We are willing to lay down our lives to protect the lives of who we call our brothers and sisters.
When one is at war we are with our brothers and sisters every hour of every day and we get to know them better than we know our own families sometimes and it creates a bond that is almost more powerful than a family bond. We learn to love our fellow veterans, (our brothers and sisters) in such a way that you love your mom and dad and your own brothers and sisters and in some cases even more. We would do anything for each other. This is a bond that goes far beyond those of just the men and women in our units. This bond is a bond between ALL veterans because we have been there and know what each has gone through and we respect each brother and each sister for their service regardless of what their job was. We were each given a job to do and we were taught how to do that job well. Each job is as important as the next in wartime whether it be trudging through rice paddies or sitting behind a desk... it is your job and you do it to the best of your ability because if you don't someones life could very easily depend on it.
The word veteran also means pride.... and I mean a lot of pride. We are proud of our country, we are proud of our flag and we are proud of our citizens. We may not always agree with them but we are proud to be in a country which allows us the freedom to have different opinions.
When a flag is raised and the National Anthem is played, if you are close enough to a veteran...you may see a tear running down his or her cheek or you just might see goosebumps on their arms. That is what pride is.
If you are lucky enough to ever visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall, you will see veterans not just with a tear running down their cheek but they will almost always be sobbing uncontrollably. For some it is years of war bottled up inside of them and they are finally able to let it go. For others it is the name of a friend or relative which brings out the tears.
This all sounds like being a veteran is a sad thing. It is not and it is far from it. We have just seen many things that others haven't seen and we have a better understanding sometimes of certain circumstances that others just have no knowledge of.
We, as veterans, don't ask for much. We only ask that our brothers and sisters who were lost in wars gone by be remembered. We ask that our brothers and sisters who are still missing to be also remembered and we ask our government to please bring them home where they belong. We ask nothing of ourselves but we ask of you, our children, to please grow up with a sense of pride in our great country and to our flag. It is not just a piece of cloth but a symbol of something wonderful.
You are the first children I have written to and I hope that you walk away today with a better understanding of the word Veteran and that you also have a good feeling inside of yourselves about this wonderful country you live in.
And if you happen to see a veteran on the street... walk up to him or her and shake their hand and tell them thank you. That is probably the most important thing to a veteran... knowing that someone cares and is thankful about all that he or she gave.
Best of luck to you all...