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Being a Veteran has many unspoken bonds. Some are lighthearted like a jeep wave, and some connect to how a Vet is brought in- with an oath, heart and in some cases... blood. One of my favorite things to do is when I see a vet wearing any Marine Corps swag, I walk up to him and ask if he earned that shirt, hat or buckle. Whatever it is, the response is always the same…every single time. Their face gets stern, chest comes out and with a deep voice they say, “You’re damn right I did!” I love it. The next part is what I admire in these guys the most. I smile big, reach out my hand and say, “Semper Fi.” Their faces melt, chest comes down and their voices soften as they return the "Semper Fi". They know I'm a brother, a fellow Marine.
What is it that bonds all Veterans together? Now I have never spoken to these men before, but they're my brothers. Age means nothing. Whether they were War Vet or served state side, 0311 or a 6061, we share something that a civilian can never buy or claim. It’s earned with that original oath, ongoing passion, selflessness, determination, and bloodshed. These meetings with other Vets are always in passing and last only a brief moment, but we are instantly reminded of our time in the Corps. I think of the Gunnery Sergeant I tried to save. The other Marine thinks of his different deployments or friends that have passed as well. In that brief moment, we’re back with our brothers, laughing, drinking or fighting side by side in a bar or on the battlefield. We’re 19 again flying in a C-130 or a 46, getting promoted or giving a 1st Lt. a hard time. Or, others may recall standing on the Yellow Footprints or signing discharge papers. It's good to go back, even for a moment.
My advice to you on Veteran's Day is simple. If you are privileged with the opportunity to cross paths with one who served to give you your freedom, just say thanks. It'll mean more than trying to share your Jeep wave with him. It's a Vet thing, unless you served, you wouldn't understand.
Happy Veteran's Day!