Andrea C. Brett, author of "I am a Veteran", recites her heartfelt, inspiring poem during a Brett Family show in Branson, Missouri in 2009.
You may not know me the first time we meet, I’m just another you see on the street. But I am the reason you walk and breathe free. I am the reason for your liberty, I am a veteran.
I work in the local factory all day, I own the restaurant just down the way, I sell your insurance… I start your IV, I’ve got the best looking grandkids you’ll ever see. I’m your grocer, your banker, your child’s schoolteacher. I’m your plumber, your barber, your family’s preacher. But there’s part of me you don’t know very well. Just listen a moment, I’ve a story to tell. I am a veteran.
I joined the service while still in my teens, I traded my prom dress for camouflage greens. I’m the first in my family to do something like this. I followed my father like he followed his. Defying my fears and hiding my doubt, I married my sweetheart before I shipped out. I missed Christmas, then Easter. The birth of my son. But I knew I was doing what had to be done.
I served on the battle front, I served on the base. I bound up the wounded and begged for God’s grace, I gave orders to fire, I followed commands, I marched into conflict in far distant lands. In the jungle, the desert, on mountains and shores, In bunkers, in tents, on dank earthen floors. While I fought on the ground, in the air, on the sea, My family and friends were home praying for me. For the land of the free and the home of the brave, I faced my demons in foxholes and caves. Then one dreaded day, without drummer or fife, I lost an arm, my buddy lost his life.
I came home and moved on, but forever was changed. The perils of war in my memory remain. I don’t really say much. I don’t feel like I can, But I left home a child, And came home a man.
There are thousands like me, Thousands more who are gone, But their legacy lives as time marches on. White crosses in rows, And names carved in queue, Remind us of what these brave souls had to do.
I’m part of a fellowship, A strong mighty band, Of each man and each woman, Who has served this great land. And when old glory waves, I stand proud, I stand tall, I helped keep her flying over you, over all, I am a veteran.
As I have spoken with many of these men and women over the years, I have discovered time and time again that some of the most amazing and inspiring stories of sacrifice and service to our country come from the most common people. Without their uniform to distinguish them from everyone else in the crowd, they look just like you and I.
They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and backgrounds, yet they share one very important bond – military service to the greatest country on earth. Behind each of their faces and in each of their hearts is a story that most likely has gone untold or unheralded. Most of them believe that their contribution was small – just part of their duty – but it is these individual efforts that have combined into a mighty force for freedom. These stories, in combination, make up the bigger story of America itself – a story of courage, sacrifice, faith, honor, love, and the commitment to preserve and protect Her precious liberties.
The poem “I am a Veteran” was written to pay tribute to those who have written this story. Each line or phrase in the poem is the voice of one of these men or women; each represents an actual person that I have met or have been told about. The poem is not about one veteran, but each and all. The words represent only a sampling of the diverse experiences of our veterans – it would be impossible to cover them all – therefore, it is intended more to symbolize the sacrifice of all veterans and to honor them for the service they each performed.
The poem was also written to cause anyone who reads or hears it to become more aware of each man or woman they encounter in their everyday comings and goings. Maybe he or she is a veteran. Maybe he or she had a part in securing my freedoms. Maybe this “common” person has performed uncommon service in my behalf. If so, the ground we share in our daily walk is truly sacred ground.
I have been told by many veterans that my poem has given them a voice. This is the highest compliment I could possibly receive. It is an honor to speak for any of these noble men and women who have given so much. It is with deepest gratitude and humility that I offer “I am a Veteran” as my gift to these great Americans.