Long ago, in a trench filled with dying and dead bodies, a young man lay gasping for air. He had just been gassed by the German army--an all too common fate in World War I.
He had been left to die. Everyone had assumed he would die. Except for him.
He lay there, looking at the picture of the girl he loved, and willed himself to live. Faith and love kept him breathing long after his lungs should have stopped working.
After several days of lying among the dead, some soldiers returned. They realized he was still alive, and took him away from the front lines.
Finally, he was shipped back to America, but his lungs had been badly damaged.
The girl in the picture was still in America, waiting. But others told her not to marry him. How could a man with ruined lungs make a living as a farmer?
But the girl had a mind of her own, and loved the boy, so she married him anyway.
The doctor told him he didn't have long to live. But doctors have been wrong before.
The man struggled and pushed and farmed. And he and the girl who had become his wife, survived and had children.
Sometimes his son would find him on the ground, collapsed in the field. His lungs couldn't handle the strain. But he wouldn't stop. He had to provide.
He kept on living, and as so many wounded veterans have chosen to do-- he made a real life in spite of his purple heart.
As it is for many veterans---His bravery did not end on with facing an enemy on a far-off battlefield.
His bravery and courage was tested for the rest of his life-- as he chose to keep on living regardless of what he had suffered, and continued to endure.
And I'm really glad he did. He was my great-grandfather--and he lived long enough to meet his great-grandchildren.
He also outlived the doctor, who long ago told him to prepare for death.
I'm really glad he didn't listen.
To all of the veterans and to those who continue to serve today---thank you for your sacrifice--both on the field of battle, aboard ship, in the air, and back home.