A salute to all the veterans of the United States
When Marine Cpl. Nick Kimmel walked onto the field and prepared to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 2 of the World Series last month, it brought a lump to everyone's throat and a glisten to the eyes.
The sold-out crowd at AT&T Park in San Francisco stood and cheered then got even louder when Cpl. Kimmel threw a perfect strike as proof that he hadn't lost the talent that made him a high school star.
The applause showered on Cpl. Kimmel was testament to his courage and determination after losing both legs and an arm in an explosion that maimed him during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan - his second tour fighting for Operation Enduring Freedom, chasing the al-Qaida terrorist organization that hit America on 9/11.
No wheelchair for this Marine. He walked out there under his own power.
It is easy to cheer for men like Kimmel, whose terrible injuries are obvious at first glance. His left uniform sleeve hangs pinned and empty, his pant legs are only partially filled with prosthetic legs.
Nick Kimmel is an American hero, but there are so many more - and their injuries are not always so easy to see.
Some of them lie all but forgotten in military hospitals across the country, to be sure, but others walk among us unnoticed and, for the most part, unsung.
A very close friend who went ashore on bloody Omaha Beach during World War II never talked about it, but his wife told me that even decades later he would jerk awake during a nightmare about that day in June 1944. He even took his family to that beach on the 50th anniversary of the landing and wept openly for the friends who had fallen while securing an Allied foothold on Europe.
Another man, who had been a buddy since our early childhood, came back from Vietnam forever changed. He wanted people to listen to him as he talked about a comrade's head being blown off next to him or the fear he suffered when the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive and overran his position.
When I was the city editor in Colorado Springs a couple of decades ago, we were paid a visit by the traveling Vietnam Wall. I sent my best "people reporter" out to try to find some vets from that war and get their feelings.
He reported back that not one had come to the wall. But he had been told that if he stayed the night, he might see some.
Sure enough, at about 2 a.m. in the morning, several disheveled and bearded men seemed to come out of nowhere and knelt at the wall, most of them placing a hand on a particular name etched there and quietly weeping.
In a town north of Victoria, there is a man who actually witnessed the surrender of Germany at a little schoolhouse in France back in 1945. And in the midst of the celebrations, he, too, wept at the unspeakable loss of humanity from that conflict . still does, in fact.
To those men and women who have sacrificed so much for America, we dedicate this Veterans Day, which originally commemorated the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany as World War I wound down. It is said it came at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
Here we are, hopefully still saluting these brave ones 94 years later.
But even so, it can never be enough.
Jim Bishop is a former executive editor of the Advocate. He lives in Victoria.