As I walked out my front door a few evenings ago, I was stunned by another of our spectacular Arizona sunsets. The western sky over the Black Mountains was blood red and purple, and it changed by the second.
While I was savoring the moment, it dawned on me that those colors are the colors of sacrifice and heroism. The red of blood shed for our country and the purple for the Purple Heart award given to those young warriors who go to battle for our country and our way of life and are wounded. We owe everything we have and everything we are to all those young heroes who have made such sacrifices for this blessed country. The untold numbers of patriotic young men and women who have fought and died for our country since its very beginning are the only thing that stands between us and our total destruction.
As I looked at that sunset and what it represents for me, I realized that the old geezers in our country and others are the ones who start wars. The angry old men around the world get mad at some other old men, then start making threats and rattling swords and when we get ourselves sufficiently aroused, we begin the hideous process of spending our most precious coin.
That coin is the best and the brightest of our young citizens. These youngsters have no urge to fight and kill or be killed. We have to teach them to think that way.
This is nothing new in our world. Since the time of clubs, bows and arrows, and slingshots, we geezers have had to make warriors of innocent kids. How do we do that? We talk of the glory of battles past and the heroes who emerged to return home and of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and are buried in hallowed ground in some other land.
We beat the drum and we blow the bugle and we talk of God and country and of mom and apple pie. We wave the flag and we make rousing speeches and we persuade the young that a glorious future can be theirs if they will just “sign here.” Then we dress them in pretty uniforms and give them shiny weapons, and we send them off to the sound of martial music and bye-bye parades. So, we geezers stand there, with tears in our eyes knowing what awaits them. They go onward to their fate and some of them return. When they come home, what do they find? The country that sent them to war with great promises looks at them with disdain and fear. After all, what are they now? Now they are warriors, trained killers, and, therefore, are to be feared and cast aside and ignored.
These formerly innocent kids have gone and offered themselves as sacrificial lambs for those of us who sat comfortably at home on our butts. Now we try to explain to them just why we don’t keep our promises to them. We told them we would hold their jobs for them. We told them we would take care of all their medical needs for the rest of their lives after they returned. The young love of their life promised to faithfully wait for them. We promised them an opportunity to resume their education. We promised them a bright future. We promised them the eternal thanks and gratitude of a proud nation.
To their enormous disappointment, they find that very few of those promises were kept. And we geezers wonder why the young warriors become bitter and disillusioned, and why they turn to drink and drugs and curse those of us who turned them into warriors and then let them down so badly. This has been going on since the first organized war. We use them and cast them aside.
So here I am in the sunset of my life, reminded by a beautiful sunset of the valor and heroism of our young warriors. Even though I am an old geezer, I know what those valiant youngsters feel. Like many other old geezers, I went through those things. I was there, I did that, too. Now, while I am proud to have served my country, I am at the same time thoroughly ashamed of how we treat our veterans.
Veterans, I stand with my hand over my heart. I salute you. May God bless and keep you!
To the rascals, incompetents and thieves within the Veterans Administration and other agencies of our government, I say, wake up, stand up, and do the job you have promised to do.
Remember, we veterans, we geezers, vote.