Joint Base Charleston


The American Veteran

By Captain Mary Kim Kenney-Gutshall | Naval Health Clinic Charleston commanding officer | November 14, 2012

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Last week, I was very humbled at the invitation to be the Grand Marshal for the 2012 Veterans Day Parade hosted by the Ralph H. Johnson Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Charleston.
The Department of Defense and VA are working very hard to ensure lasting health care in a seamless manner from the beginning of our active career and throughout our career as veterans.

As I sat trying to think of what I would talk about during my obligatory speech before the parade kicked off, I thought of a poem that absolutely moves me every time I hear it or read it. It truly paints a picture of the reason why we decided, and continue to wear the cloth of this great nation. It was written in 1970 by an Army veteran, Charles M. Province, about a Soldier; however, the message applies to all members of the Armed Services, past, present and future. It is titled, "It is the Soldier."

In this eloquent poem, Province says, "It is the Soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion. It is the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to protest. It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the Soldier, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote."

And in his final verse Province wrote, "It is the Soldier, who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."

Province's powerful words are true. It is each and every one of you that protects and preserves liberty and freedom for this great country.

I would also add that a veteran is the anonymous hero in the Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the other anonymous heroes whose valor died unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
He is the old man bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp, and who wishes all day long 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.

You are all guardians and serve as a sword against the darkness, and you are nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

The official Veterans Day recognition was last week, but I recognize each of you daily. I am honored to stand alongside you and honored to call you brothers and sisters in arms. Let us remember to continually honor and respect those who have come before us to defend this great nation. It is these veterans who made our service possible.

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