A toast to our veterans

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Brad Spacy
  • 81st Training Wing Commander
"To those who have fought, to those who have fallen, to those who continue the fight!"

This is an old warfighter's toast I first heard when I was a young Lieutenant. I heard it from my Flight Sergeant who said he'd heard it in Vietnam. I am not sure where it comes from originally, but I think it's important and here is what it means to me:

To those who have fought: There are millions of them and they've come from all walks of life to serve their country. Some fought for freedom when our country was formed over 200 years ago. Some fought against each other when our nation was young, confused, and divided. We call some "The Greatest Generation" because they saved the world when it was being taken over by an axis of evil. We treated another great generation badly even though they fought with honor in Vietnam. Still more fought in the Cold War, perhaps the most terrifying war of all, where each day seemed to be our last. Some served just a year or two and some an entire lifetime. Some went on to be successful in business or politics while others became artists and actors. Some spent years in captivity and redefined heroism as they endured the un-endurable. Some had wonderful lives, and some spent the rest of their lives haunted by the horror of war and the ghosts of lost friends. Many have gaps in their lives that can't be filled. They've all missed holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. Whether fighting in war, or keeping the peace, they lived lives of service so we could all be free.

To those who have fallen: These are our friends who never came back and we miss them. When talking about WWII, President Reagan said "most of those who died in defense of our country were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. They gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers...they gave up everything for their country, for us. All we can do is remember." Today we add sisters, mothers, and grandmothers to the list. Some were my friends; Randy, my best friend from High School, Tim, another friend from college, and Dan, one of my troops. We don't know what they might have done, what their sons or daughters might have done. We owe them our lives but we can never repay them -- or their families for their sacrifice. We can only remember.

To those who continue the fight: They are fighting for our freedom right now, and they're fighting so that others can know freedom for the first time. They fight so our children can grow and live in peace, so they can speak their minds, and worship freely. They're fighting against terror. They're fighting to make the world a safer place; a better place. They fight so when people see our flag, they know it means they will be safe and free. They don't ask for much, but they need you. They need to know you are behind them, they need your prayers, and they need you there when they return. They need to know you believe in them, to keep the faith, to remember why they fight. They need to know that you will mourn with them, celebrate with them, hold them when they're hurt, and that you will understand when they have trouble adjusting. They are brave and they know fear. They have friends and families. They're all heroes but won't let you call them that. They are proud Americans. They will not falter, and they will not fail!

These are our Veterans, my brothers and sisters and I'll fight beside them, and for them.

I would like to add a few words to this toast so that it can be complete to me.

"To our Veterans--to those have fought, to those who have fallen, to those who continue the fight--thank you and God Bless you."

Happy Veteran's Day!