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"Veterans are like a pillar," said my cousin.  When I first heard this, I did not really understand what he meant by it.  He later explained that veterans support America like pillars support a building.  Even though they do not get enough appreciation, they are always there bearing the weight of the country through their service and sacrifice.

     When I think of veterans, I think of bravery. Veterans have to be some of the most courageous people I know.  The knowledge of what some have been through makes me respect them even more.  Our teacher told us to put ourselves in their shoes, but I do not think you can get the whole range of emotions by just thinking about what they did or how they felt.  It is something you have to personally experience to understand.

     My cousin served in the army for 10 years.  He is a complete goof and loves to tease, but he immediately becomes serious when the topic changes to his military experience.  He went into the army young, undisciplined, overweight, and a wimp.  The military helped him grow socially and physically.  He became well disciplined and positive.  Then he went to war, and all those feelings were gone.  All he could think about was getting back to his family. When he watched men die, he realized that they weren't just people, they were dads.  Being a husband and father, this especially got to him.  He was in two tours in Europe as a mechanic and two tours in the United States as a mechanic.  He is the only border-qualified mechanic in the history of the army.  After his time in the army, he went to college at the age of 32.  Today he has very strong opinions and values.  He believes the military fights for the rights of Americans to grow and make mistakes, and that the military allows us to change the country we live in.  He currently works in the family business.  It upsets him to hear people talk of veterans with a lack of admiration and respect.  To this day he considers himself a pillar, sustaining all the weight but with little recognition.

     I personally believe that service is the hardest king of work to do.  It is more that an occupation.  It is a commitment that many feel obliged to do.  You cannot back out or quit this job.  The service of America's veterans has molded much of the world into what it is today.  Though there is still work ahead, a great deal has been fulfilled.

     Sacrifice is more than the destruction of something for the sake of something else.  Everybody has to sacrifice something sometimes in their life.  Veterans sacrifice time, comfort, and their lives.  Their families have to sacrifice loved ones.  Americans sacrifice stability, strength, and blood.  This is done in order to gain something else - something with a worthy importance.  Sacrifice is an act of extreme selflessness and gallantry.

     When asked to think about America, almost everyone immediately says freedom.  It is the first thing that we think of because it is really what America stands for.  This shows how much we need and rely on freedom.  We may take this for granted, but it is truly what makes us Americans.  Veterans have and always will defend our freedom.

     Today's youth are particularly aware of the world's actions.  This is both an advantage and disadvantage.  It is important to know what is going on in the world, but with this knowledge comes the ability and responsibility to act.  Putting words and plans into action is what today's youth will soon be obliged to do in the future.  This sounds easy, but is it?  Is today's youth ready for this huge responsibility?  I consider myself part of today's youth, and I believe we are.  We recognize that no country is invincible to any kind of attack.  The sacrifice of previous generations has taught us that.  We learn from past mistakes and build on them with mistakes of our own.  Kind of like making history while learning it.

     But none of our future's plans would be possible if it were not for the service and sacrifice of veterans.  They hold up our country like a pillar holds up a building.  The service and sacrifice of veterans is helping support and shape our future.

Submitted by JESSICA COLE

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