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As another Veterans Day approaches us, do you ever truly stop to think about what/who is a veteran? 

According to the dictionary, the word veteran is: A person who has had much experience and served in some branch of the military. In my family, I had an uncle who served in WWI in the Army. He was killed while overseas. My father was also in WWI and served in the Army.  Three of my brothers were in the Army and one was in the Navy. My eldest living brother graduated from West Point and served in the military for 39 years. He did tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam. He was injured in Korea and I’ll never forget when he finally got to come home. We lived out in the country where it was quiet and peaceful.

Being from a small town, the local newspaper wanted to have an interview with a hometown "hero." My mother set her foot down and told them no. He was physically, emotionally, and mentally too fragile right then. The first thing he wanted to eat was a tomato sandwich (something besides canned rations). Next, he just wanted to go out into our groves, sit and be alone, where it was quiet. A chance to unwind, hear nothing like helicopters, guns, tanks, etc. and recoup from the turmoil. It was exactly the time and cure he needed. 

Most of our veterans these days don’t get that opportunity. They come back home to wives, children, families, responsibilities, jobs. Many are broken physically. They need constant care to be able to even thrive. For others, mentally and emotionally there is no time for them to unwind, readjust, and fit back into life as they knew before serving their country. After Vietnam, our veterans were treated as dirt.  Shame on us as a nation to treat those who had given their best as traitors. They served as best they could. After years of hatred and disregard for their sacrifices, our nation has finally recognized them for the heroes they are. The memorials, the walls, the monuments in their honor are emotional reminders of each of those who have served. The next time you see someone in uniform, give them a "high five," a smile, a handshake, a thumbs up, a word of encouragement. They deserve it. We need to respect and appreciate their time of service. 

On a special note for me: My eldest living brother, who is now 91, was privileged to ride in my hometown’s Veterans Day parade this past weekend in Florida. Besides honoring veterans, it was the 100th year of the naming of the town. (Our father actually was on the committee that helped chose the name). He was the oldest living veteran as well as the oldest living person from our home town. He sat next to Miss Centennial on the float. (Not sure if she was impressed or even realized the significance of the day for him, but a memory just the same.)  To each and every Veteran, may I express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for the services you have given. God bless each of you and thank you from the bottom of my heart.  

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Audrey B. Unruh is a local columnist, who can be reached at zwiebach@charter.net

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