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What is a vet?
By Father Denis Edward O’Brien

In honor of Veteran’s Day and all those who have, and are, serving.

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg – or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul’s ally forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can’t tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She (or he) is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another – or didn’t come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat – but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.

He is the parade – riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor died unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket – palsied now and aggravatingly slow – who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being – a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Learn more about “combat operational stress” by watching the movie, “Cover Me”. Please also review the important resources listed on the Semper Fi Fund website for help with combat operational stress and other Veteran needs.

Important Vet Info Whether Or Not You Plan To Live Forever…
Each week The War Library recieves calls from anguished family members trying to hurdle the VA maze to get burial info or benefits for a deceased veteran because they cannot find the vet’s Report of Separation or other military documents.

Whether or not you plan to live forever you MUST make arrangements for your death should your privately made plans to cheat ‘The Grim Reaper’ fail to work out. It is both unfair and callous to frustrate family members who run into VA roadblocks because you failed to pre-prepare all of the information they will need.To spare your survivors the anguish of VA bureaucracy you should do the following NOW:

1. Prepare an 8-by-12 envelope containing the following veteran-related information to be left on a shelf or in a drawer that can be easily found after your death:

a. a photocopy of your DD-214 (or Report of Separation) and other important military-issued documents
b. a photocopy of your Social Security card
c. a photocopy of your drivers license
d. the location of the nearest VA Service Office for burial assistance benefits
e. a duplicate set of your military medals to be buried with you
f. the address and phone number of your local newspaper(s) to post your obit
g. your military medal Last Will and Testament naming the person you entrust your primary medal set to
h. the names and addresses of fellow veterans or veteran organizations you want your survivors to notify
i. cassette tapes in your voice historicalizing your most memorable military experiences. (these tapes will become monetarily valuable over time/generations… you can make your great-great-grandchildren rich.)
j. if applicable… the name(s) and last known locations of prior spouse(es) / mate(s) or child(ren) from any previous marriage(s) or relationship(s) you acquired in the US or abroad

2. Include also a page containing the following websites…
Find a nearby VA Service Officer to assist with deceased or burial benefits:

Where to get basic info on VA burial assistance and entitlements:

Where to obtain duplicate medals sets for burial:

Where to obtain a Military Medal Last Will and Testament:”>

Contact Person for this posting: Roger Simpson, PIO
Public Information Office:
The American War Library:
16907 Brighton Avenue
Gardena CA 90247-5420
Phone / Fax: 1-310-532-0634