Letter to the Editor


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To the editor:

It's probably a safe bet to say that virtually every veteran is familiar with the words of Rudyard Kipling in his poem, "Tommy," about the life of a British soldier: "It's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and chuck him out, the brute!. But it's 'thin red line of heroes' when the guns begin to shoot." Anyone who has ever served in combat obviously understands what it's like to be part of that thin red line, but in today's peacetime military, those thin red lines extend all the way around the globe.

To the soldier in a combat zone, the treat is immediate and anticipated. To the soldier on an international peacekeeping force, the threats are more veiled, more subdued, but they can be just as deadly. A stealth fighter suddenly crashes. A transport on a routine flight disappears from the radar screen, and all aboard are lost. Or a soldier out on a regular security patrol in Bosnia steps on an undetected land mine. These are but a few of the threats facing our men and women in uniform today. No, it's not combat, but the outcome can be just as deadly.

On this Veterans Day, let us remember not only our heroes of wars past, but also the sentinels of peace in an uneasy world. American men and women in uniform are veterans too and deserve our thanks and our guarantee that, when they come home, they will receive the benefits they have earned and deserve.

We in America have been blessed with a patriotism that, generation after generation, brings out young men and women who step forward and say, "Yes, I will serve. I will go where my country needs me." Regardless of the state of affairs -- relative calm or all-out warfare -- young Americans have always been there when their country needed them. And we must always ensure, in return, that their country is there for them.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, that is our only mission: to take care of America's veterans. We are proud to be the stewards of upholding America's promise to our veterans. Where others might see a cantankerous old man, shoulders stooped with age and head bowed by illness, we at VA see the scared young boy hitting the beaches at Normandy, the Marine fighting frostbite and the enemy in the frigid cold of the Chosen Reservoir, or the pilot braving the flak and anti-aircraft missiles to drop his bomb load on the target in North Vietnam. And, in the same light, we see the young American manning a lonely outpost above the Arctic Circle, the soldier keeping the peace between two warring factions by walking patrol through a no-fire zone, or the airman maintaining hours of aerial surveillance to prevent the outbreak of hostilities.

The thin red line has always been defined by our young Americans in uniform, going in harm's way wherever our nation has needed them. On this Veterans Day, let us all rededicate ourselves to remembering the depth of their contributions and the importance of fulfilling the promise of a nation grateful for their service and sacrifice.


Department of Veterans Affairs

Washington, D.C.