I remember looking at the dingy, worn and black-and-white photos of men in my dad's World War II Book of the 2nd Marine Division.
All those who were alive were always smiling through their tattered and dirty and worn fatigues. The others in the photo, the enemy, were lying lifeless and had vacant stares forever etched on their faces and in my mind.
I wasn't really supposed to be sneaking looks at these horrible photos, but to my inquisitive 10-year-old mind I just couldn't resist.
Then I realized that almost every photo I had of war was dingy, worn, tattered and stained from the effects of war.
As I grew older and served in combat, I realized that all of the people in the photos were worn and tattered. Men who had left their country, families, father and mother to go and fight for a cause larger than themselves or even their country.
Because if someone didn't stand up to injustice, communism or any other -ism that prevented and promote our American way of life, he would soon have the expressionless face and join the deceased.
America can defend herself. Americanism must be defended by the veterans who hold in their hearts the earnest devotion of right and justice for the world.
In order to do that, the veteran must fight under harsh and inhumane conditions. Wars are not won in the war rooms or by strategic planning, but by individuals who are willing to sacrifice everything in order to preserve the American way of life and ideas. That is why the veteran, in the photos, even smiling, is tattered and dirty and worn.
I realized that this fundamental picture that has been painted on paper is true of all veterans and all wars. Anything of value must be paid for with a price. How much does America cost? The debt is paid by the veteran paying with his life in order that his countrymen may live free. It is a high price to pay, but it is the only way to bring about and sustain the America we are part of.
So, this Veterans Day, when you are bar-b-queing, having a get-together with friends or maybe even watching a parade, take time to stop and realize that our road to peace and prosperity was paved by the blood of the veterans, who in torn and tattered attire, kept our dreams and hopes alive and afforded us the opportunity to live in the greatest country ever.
Our wars, our battles, were fought with the attitude and determination that Americans could live in a world not governed by dictators or kings, but governed by God's almighty sovereignty. An America where individuals have rights and are allowed to own property. An America where life is sacred and dignity is always at the forefront. An honest and upright America.
None of these attributes hold any value or enforce any authority. That is the job of the veteran. Always has been and always will be. God Bless Our Veterans!