Greetings to my fellow veterans and may I wish you all a very special Veterans Day. As well for yesterday, to all those who have worn the scarlet and gold, may I convey a very happy birthday to the greatest fighting force the world has known, our United States Marine Corps — Semper Fidelis!
When I think of this day the word legacy comes to mind. It is the legacy that was established years ago by men who answered the call to arms at Lexington and Concord. They exemplified the essence of the verse from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 6, verse 8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
In keeping with that poignant piece of scripture, it has been the American warrior — the veteran — who has been willing to sand up and say “send me.” From the bone-chilling cold of Valley Forge to the triumph of Yorktown. From the embarrassment of retreat as the British burned Washington DC, to the glory of the star spangled banner flying over Ft. McHenry, to driving the redcoats straight down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
Sadly, brothers also answered the call to arms against each other, as this nation stood to rectify a wrong and ensure the seminal words of Thomas Jefferson, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” — not in outcomes but in the opportunity afforded by liberty — came to fruition. Warriors stood and said “send me” and we sent them “over there” in what was thought to be the war to end all wars.
And when confronted with the greatest threat to freedom and liberty, when evil struck on a December Sunday morning — our national treasure demanded, “send me”. They went and defeated Nazism, Fascism, and Japanese Imperialism. And even after the weariness of that taxing World War II — the greatest generation — stood right back up and many of them said, “send me” to the Korean Peninsula to stand against the new tyranny of Communism. And they continued to stand and more generations said “send me” to confront the red menace.
Our brave men and women went to another far away land called Vietnam – tragically, our nation did not shower them with gratitude, admiration, and love. They came home rejected and treated as pariahs after they had done that which is the most honorable of Americans — even as draftees, they answered the call, “send me.”
And now today we face a new menace — actually an old foe that our Marines faced as they landed on the shores of Tripoli — Islamic jihadism and terrorism. Just as that early December morning on one side of our bountiful land, the attack came early September 11th and terrorized a new generation — but also inspired a new greatest generation who said,”send me.”
And even in the face of nebulous strategy, restrictive rules of engagement and purely political decisions — they fight on! They have fought in the deserts and streets of Iraq and in the high altitudes of Afghanistan – the more relentless the enemy, the more resilient and resolute our warriors.
Veteran’s Day is a very special day in the West family. It is a day when I recall the stories of my dad, U.S. Army Corporal Herman West Sr. of his experiences in World War II. I remember fretting over my older brother, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Herman West Jr. during the siege at Khe Sahn and hanging up his Marine Corps “Alphas” when he threw them into the closet upon his return home.
I will never forget the men and women with whom I served over a 22-year career as an Army Lieutenant Colonel in peace and combat. And now, I beam with pride for my nephew, U.S. Army Major Herman Bernard West III, the latest in our line of combat veterans.
America survives as the longest running Constitutional Republic because of the legacy of two simple words, “send me” — and so today we honor those who answered the call to serve, sacrifice, and commit with those two words. Yes, they are truly the few, they are indeed the proud, they are American veterans. Happy Veterans Day, brothers and sisters. Happy Veterans Day Dad, I miss you and your winglady, Mom!