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Speech defines the nature of a veteran


November 15, 2017

Sunday at the annual veterans’ spaghetti dinner, several people spoke powerfully of their experiences in the military. One speech in particular—that of Lisa Evans—captured the essence of military valor and true service with remarkable eloquence. Following is what she said:

Good afternoon. My name is Lisa Evans, and I live in White Salmon. I am a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and I served about five years as an Aviation Intel Officer for the U.S. Marine Corps.

I’d like to thank Gina [McCabe] for the invitation. I’d also like to thank the veterans, for although our stories are all different, our varying service and sacrifices are the foundation that brings us here today. I served prior to 9/11, what is considered peacetime. Many of my peers, including my husband Charlton, went on to tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it is a little bit challenging for me to speak about my service which is so different from theirs. The best I can do is speak from my experiences.

What it means to me to be a veteran

It means:

That, like many others, I showed up on the first day with the clothes on my back and $20 in my pocket.

That my prior physical and mental preparation did not prepare me for the weeks to follow.

That although we came from all walks of life, we were all equal and the faster we learned to work as a team, the better off we would be.

That we were only as strong as the weakest link in the chain and some days I was that weak link, but no one gave up on me, including myself.

It means that:

I’ve fired a lot of really big guns (and, yes, it was awesome!).

I’ve tossed grenades, ignited C4, and set flash-bangs.

I’ve been suspended from a helicopter and flown over the countryside.

That I’ve been on submarines, tanks, ships, and planes (and I’ve only thrown up a few times). I’ve been so exhausted I passed out during a formal parade. I’ve been so cold that I was hallucinating.

That I’ve learned a lot about what I like, such as heat and air conditioning, And I know what I don’t like, like not having heat and air conditioning.

That rank has its privileges, but it also has its responsibilities.

That promoting a Marine is an honor, and that discharging a Marine for bad conduct is hard.

It means that I’ve held a Top Secret clearance.

That I understand the difference between fake news and real news and, most importantly, news that matters.

That I have a whole new appreciation for history and wish I had paid more attention to it when I was in school.

I’ve deployed around the world: France, Norway, Okinawa, South Korea, Japan, Australia.

I’ve visited the Joint Security Area in the DMZ and stepped over the line to North Korea.

I’ve seen the sunrise on Mt Fuji.

I’ve experienced other cultures, some that like us, some that do not.

It means that:

When I want to visit my best friend Major Megan McClung, that I go to Section 60, grave 8514 in Arlington National Cemetery because her HUMVEE was targeted by an IED in Dec 2006.

That in the next row lies Major Doug Zembiec, my mentor, the “Lion of Fallujah.” There was no doubt that General’s stars were in his future, if not Commandant of the Marine Corps.

That the names of my peers that have been lost in the past 23 years is too long for me to list and time is too short for me to adequately honor their sacrifice.

That when I hear of a training accident or loss of life overseas, I scan the news for the names because I may know one of those lost. And if I don’t recognize any names, I still pray for the sorrow that grips those families because I’ve experienced it first hand.

That my dress blues still hang in the closet.

That I will always stand for the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance no matter the Commander in Chief or political turmoil,

And that I know that if I ever won’t stand, then I will pack my bags and leave this country; That I will be heartbroken, but my integrity will be intact.

Finally, what it means to me to be a Veteran is that:

We’ve been tested, we’ve given our all, we have nothing left to prove And as evidenced by the brotherhood in this room, we haven’t done any of this alone.

Semper Fi.


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