November 11, 2014

Last year was my favorite Veterans Day ever.  I had the honor of being able to read an essay I'd written at my school's Veterans Day Program.  That's one thing I'd change about my high school:  I would like to have a Veterans Day Program.

The one at my junior high was amazing because students invited all the veterans they knew, and so we usually had almost one hundred show up each year.  It is so humbling and gratifying to see them all with their heads held high, a silent understanding passing between all of them.

I don't remember every word of my essay, but I do remember having to practice reading it many times.  And not one of those times did I ever tear up, but when I finally read it in front of all of them, I did.  Not noticeably, but I felt something tug at my heart strings.  It was as if the rest of my school had disappeared, and it was just me and the veterans.  I almost felt like I didn't really deserve to be reading to them.  I mean, what do I know about fighting or serving?  How was I supposed to write an essay about something I really didn't understand?

After reading the last line of my essay, I looked up, and all of my fears went away.

After reading something in front of a crowd it is customary to say a "thank-you" before leaving the podium.  I did say a "thank-you" but if I am completely honest, it wasn't for the sake of the crowd.  It was for the sake of those whom I was really reading to, present and gone.  I didn't thank them for listening to me, I thanked them for being there.  For having heads held high.  For having an undeniable courage in the face of danger.  For being veterans.

And if you're wondering what the last line of my poem was, it was a quote that my teacher helped me find.  I think it sums up what we all think of today.
As President John F. Kennedy said about our veterans, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

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