During this holiday season I constantly think about my fellow soldiers with whom I served both stateside and in Vietnam. To be sure, we had many characters, but not one of them considered themselves to be a victim. The greatest Christmas gift you can give to anyone who has served in the military is to view us as citizens who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice; not as a victim.

The Naperville area every year sends well-educated young patriotic men and women to serve in the various branches of the military. We have many that are attending the service academies as well as ROTC programs at universities around the country. Some may have relatives who served, but many are the first from their families to enter the military. In talking to them, they all say that they feel it is their obligation to serve and continue to defend and protect the freedoms past generations have sacrificed so much to preserve.

The military today is the best educated in our history. If you talk to active duty military and Veterans alike they will tell you, “Yes, we volunteered and we would do it again. It is our duty.”

While some might describe our actions as heroic, we did not seek to be heroes. We are proud but not pompous. We do not ask for pity or charity, only for your patience and understanding. We may experience anguish and pain, but we are not angry. We have been witness to great change. In turn, we were changed forever ourselves.

We have left our homes, families and lives, so you may keep yours. We may not support your philosophy, but have sacrificed greatly to protect your rights to have that philosophy.

We stood proudly shoulder to shoulder, and to a man, we would do it again, for we are Veterans not victims. Do not look upon our ranks as objects of your pity and guilt. Do not weep for the soldier who lost a limb. He will tell you he didn’t lose it, he gave it.

During this holiday season think about the prayer Eleanor Roosevelt gave during World War II.

Dear Lord,
Lest I continue my complacent way,
Help me remember that somewhere, somehow out there,
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I then must ask and answer…
Am I worth dying for?
Amen.