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As a Marine Veteran I do not need a thank you for my service as I did so of my own free will. I did so for the love of my country at a time    when Americans loved her. I did so at a time when its citizens took honor in living here and flew her colors proudly. 

When I went in the USMC it was the end of the Cold War and like many it was an awesome time. This did not last long. I served in Panama and then the first Gulf War in the liberation of Kuwait. 
I saw many things that I would wish not on my worst enemy. I did things that I had to do. Yes I took life. However, I also saved it as MANY of us did. I chose to focus on that. The good that was done.
The events before, during and after led me on many paths as it did many veterans. Some dealt with it and some were not able to. Many came home and many did not. Many lost a part of their soul in the process. I connected more than ever with mine.
My personal experiences did not define me for I chose to define them. We took honor in what we did, however painful it may have been because we were fighting not for US interests but for the interest of humanity. For the families, the mothers and fathers, the children and brothers and sisters of a country in turmoil abroad and at home. This is what a just war is. It may have been birthed in an office by individuals that were in it for political gain but in the end it is the soldiers that fight and died not for that gain but for the rights and freedom of a people. 
Today many watch the news and get angry at the wars and get tired of the politicians seemingly rampant desire to put our people and our solders in jeopardy. Hell, I get pissed at times myself for most of the time the original intent is indeed for political gain.
However it is the soldier in the field that defines the action in the end. You don’t see the reality in the news. You see what they want you to see for ratings. You don’t see the compassion and devotion of the soldiers in the field. You do not see the people of the nations we are defending thanking us and praising us. You do not see the hugs and love given in return even amongst the blood and gore of war. You do not see the tears shed by the soldiers.
As veterans, active, retired or disabled, what we want to see is a respect by the people of our nation for our nation. We want to see our flags flown high and saluted and honored. We do not want to see the flag spit upon and trampled. When that is done you are walking on the dead of the bravest of men. You are saying that we do not matter. 
A government may be corrupt and it may not have our best interest at heart but that is not true for the soldier. Let the solder define our patriotism not our government. Let the flag fly high with honor so that the soldier can hold his head up with honor and not disgust at the very people he risked his life for. 
This Memorial Day I challenge each of you to fly your flags high! To solute it! To respect it! As a combat veteran I ask each of you to lift us up but lifting our flag up. I ask each of you to defend our flag here at home when you see it disrespected. Do so not for our government but for me, for the soldiers still in harms way, for the disabled veteran and for the fallen that will never come home.
This is all I want as a soldier and a veteran as I am sure many others do. Please pass this message along in honor of us all.
May God bless you and our nation! Semper Fi!