- Donald E. Hester
Honoring and Thanking Our Veterans: Self-Sacrifice for Others
This picture is of me with SSGT Ty Carter, Medal of Honor winner. Take after VetJam 2013 in Pittsburg, CA on November 9, 2013.
The following is a transcript of a speech I gave at Brentwood veterans Park on November 11, 2013.
Thanking our Veterans 2013
We come together here today to honor our war and peacetime veterans. Honoring and thanking our veterans should need no explanation. For me honoring and thanking all veterans seems to be self-evident. Until recently, I never thought that I would have to defend the idea of honoring and thanking our veterans. However, recently I was told by a citizen of this great country that he did not understand what the big deal is about honoring veterans. He said they just join the military because they have no other options. He told me he did not understand why they brag about their service by having military bumper stickers and wear military logos on their clothes. For these reasons he did not think we should afford our veterans any special honor or thanks. In fact, he said they probably get too many benefits.
I was taken back. I wasn’t sure what to say.
Doesn’t he understand that they serve their country? That each and every veteran sacrificed their freedom for the freedom of others?
Doesn’t he understand that they don’t simply pay lip service to the value of self-sacrifice? All veterans put on the uniform, to stand guard for our ideals of freedom.
Our nation’s values cannot endure forever without constant vigilance. Our veterans are willing to bear any burden or pay any price to ensure justice and freedom for those unable or unwilling to do it for themselves.
Every veteran knows when they put on their uniform they might have been called into service. Some were and some were not. But all stand ready to endure suffering and hardships and even risk their lives for our freedoms.
Is preparation or simply standing guard somehow any less honorable? Don’t we all join the military knowing the risks? Many of us joined because we realize the gift of freedom we were given in this great nation and understand that from time to time the fires of freedom require vigilance to prevent the flames from dying out.
Veterans didn’t pay this price alone. Their loved ones bore the burden as well. There are the children who have a parent away for what seems like an endless deployment. There are the spouses who are apart and spend many sleepless nights wondering if their loved one were safe. How many first steps, recitals, birthdays or anniversaries were spent away from their loved ones? The veteran and their family make sacrifices not only for the citizens of these United States but for all the free world.
Many veterans have wounds from there service that they must bear as well. Some are seen like scars or missing limbs. Others are unseen, but are no less unreal. With each injury, seen or unseen, it is something they will carry for the rest of their lives.
Veterans live the life of self-sacrifice for others and were willing to pay the ultimate price if necessary. Veterans paid the price for our freedom including the freedom to not thank veterans if some people wish. As Veterans we don’t put on the uniform to get honor or thanks. We do it for our families, our friends, our neighbors, our nation and even the unappreciative. That is what self-sacrifice is all about. Doing for others.
Don’t mistake our bumper stickers, flags, veterans shirts, or hats as some sort of bragging. It is simply recognition of a brotherhood born in the values of honor, courage, and commitment. To one another and to this great nation.
Today I want to thank all veterans and their families for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf. Our nations would not be here today if not or their sacrifices. Thank you and May God bless you and your families.
I would also like to recognize the Marines and Sailors who are currently providing humanitarian relief for the Philippines in the wake of super Typhoon Haiyan.
Given on November 11. 2013 Brentwood Veterans Park
Donald E. Hester Commandant Delta Diablo Det. 1155 Marine Corps League