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11-13-03, 05:42 AM

A Veterans Day Salute from Toby Keith

By Matthew Dodd

Once again, I find myself getting inspired on a special day by the words and music of a country singer. On Veterans Day 2003, the source of my inspiration is Toby Keith’s song, “American Soldier,” from his newest compact disc (CD) Shock’n Y’all. In a television interview about his CD, Keith said that the title was inspired by the U.S. military’s “shock and awe” tactics used in our recent war in Iraq.

Listening to the song these last few days, I found myself thinking, “Here’s a guy who gets it. He understands and appreciates what our military members go through and why all of our veterans are indeed special and deserve to be thanked and honored (everyday, but especially on Veterans Day) by all of us who are so fortunate to call ourselves Americans.”

“Up and at ‘em, bright and early

I’m all business in my suit.

Yes, I’m dressed up for success,

From my head down to my boots.”

Keith knows what it felt like as a boy growing up to wake up and find his dad, a soldier, was already dressed and gone. That scenario is played out thousands of times every day by our military families, including mine. In these times of war and uncertainty, many military families also endure the challenges of moms and dads being deployed to combat zones. Veterans have lived these realities.

“I don’t do it for money,

there’s bills that I can’t pay.

I don’t do it for the glory,

I just do it anyway.”

I see countless examples every day of selfless, dedicated service to country by our military members. Sure, some serve with a “What’s in it for me?” mentality, but they are in the minority. Veterans know what it is like to work harder for way less pay and recognition than their civilian peers or all those so-called public media heroes.

“Providing for our future’s my responsibility

Yeah, I’m real good under pressure, being all that I can be.

And I can’t call in sick on Mondays when the weekend’s been too strong,

I just work straight through the holidays, and sometimes all night long.”

Veterans have made it possible for all of us to enjoy today, and today’s military members make it possible for us to dream about tomorrow. Ask a veteran how many times he or she could not be home for holidays and birthdays.

“You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door

Hey, I’m solid, hey I’m steady, hey I’m true down to the core.

And I will always do my duty no matter what the price

I’ve counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice.”

Veterans have been responsible for keeping the wolves away from our great country for 227 years. Whether deploying on short notice to some hot spot around the globe, or working long staff hours to support the warfighters, veterans have always, and will always, do what needs to be done.

“Oh, and I don’t want to die for you

But if dyin’s asked of me,

I’ll bear that cross with honor

‘Cause freedom don’t come free.”

Veterans understand the price of freedom. Many know firsthand that they are here today because one of their buddies paid the ultimate price for them. Many of our current military members are now experiencing what countless veterans have lived with for years.

“I’m an American soldier, an American

Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand.

When liberty’s in jeopardy I will always do what’s right

I’m out here on the front lines, so sleep in peace tonight.”

Forget about the political squabbling and maneuvering that overshadows what veterans and current military members and their families know is the bottom line: We are safe at home enjoying freedom and liberty because others are willing to fight for our freedoms and liberties.

This Veterans Day, I hope you find some way – a book, a song, a TV program, perhaps – that inspires you to reflect on how much we owe, as a free and independent society, to our veteran population. I salute all our veterans, and I thank Toby Keith for inspiring me.

Lt. Col. Matthew Dodd USMC is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at mattdodd1775@hotmail.com.