“Thank you for your service” is a catch all phrase that people believe is the politically correct thing to say to veterans. To me, and I believe most of my veteran friends, it is just a saying to make the conversation comfortable for the non-veteran. All men and women veterans deserve our utmost gratitude and respect, having endured the horrors of war.

That was not the case when I came home from the Viet Nam war. There was no patriot guard to honor us returning veterans and no long lines of well-intentioned people to greet us at the airports, train stations or bus stations. We came home all alone and, if we were lucky, we were met by our wives, girlfriends, brothers and sisters, moms and dads, or maybe our children. They reluctantly greeted us, not knowing how the war would affect our lives forever. Because of the physical and mental pain we endured, we will never fully recover from our injuries, because most non-veterans would not understand what we went through. Agent Orange, high divorce rates, cardiac problems, homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and numerous other injuries from gunshot wounds to burns are just a few of our problems that we have had to endure over the years.

There are people and groups who do understand what we went through and I want to thank them for writing, speaking and helping to promote the veteran message. I want to thank the Lapeer VA, the VFW and the Veteran Esteem Team, my fellow veterans and non-veterans for all of your support.

In closing, I would wish for all of you to visit the Great Lakes Veteran Cemetery, located in Holly and kneel down, look upon the thousands of gravesites and pray for the fallen and ask that we as a country never have to send our young men and women to another war.

—Gary L. Cooley,
U.S. Marine Corp veteran,
North Branch