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Veterans' Day

11/11/08 7:55AM By Larry Doane
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(HOST) Today is Veteran's Day - a day we set aside each year to honor our veterans. It's also a day that commentator and  Vermont National Guard Captain Larry Doane admits brings mixed emotions.   

(DOANE) I've never been entirely comfortable with the title "Veteran."  By any definition of the word, I certainly qualify.  Still, I can never shake a feeling of awkwardness, or even embarrassment, when someone learns that I am a veteran and thanks me for my service.  

My discomfort with the public praise that inevitably arises around Veteran's Day is something I've found that I share with many other vets.  As a group we are proud to stand and be recognized and to accept the thanks of a grateful nation.  But away from the group, when we find ourselves pulled aside and singled out, it can be a different story.    

It's not that I am ashamed of being a soldier.  Indeed, I am proud of my service, both at home and overseas, and I am ready to deploy again when I'm needed.  This is not a particularly singular attitude, either.  All across this country there are thousands and thousands of soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines who each answered their country's call.  More often than not, these troops continue to stand ready to leave their homes to defend all of ours.  I have served alongside countless brave, honorable men and women, and I well know that they are deserving of our heartfelt thanks.
The military is a place acutely aware of its own history.  We study our forebears and their deeds to learn from their errors and draw inspiration for our own struggles.  We use the heroism of yesterday as a yardstick against which a measure our own accomplishments can be found.  It is often in this light that I find my greatest discomfort with the title "Veteran."  When I hear that word, it is images of Omaha Beach or the Chosin Reservoir that come to mind, not my own patrols of Mosul or Route Irish.

As time passes and my war recedes from the front page to a history book chapter, perhaps I will become more comfortable with being a veteran.  More likely, though, is that I will become like so many other servicemen I know: they live quietly amongst us with stories of heroism and sacrifice held close to their chests.  Like them, I will come to pass this day with memories of old comrades-in-arms and a renewed appreciation of the freedom we helped to secure.  But for now I remain in uniform, my veteran status on display.  

So on this Veteran's Day I will resolve to swallow my own awkward feelings, to smile, and to gracefully accept the thanks of my fellow citizens.  Perhaps not as much for myself, but for all of those vets who continue to live in anonymity around us.  Like the boys of 3rd Platoon who taught a green Lieutenant how to be a leader and then got him home again.  Or the Veterans who fought at Pointe du Hoc and Hue and Baghdad and all the nameless battlefields in between.  For each of the men and women who swore an oath to defend an ideal, wore a patch on their arm and a flag on their sleeve, and stood sentry on the frontiers of liberty.
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