On this Memorial Day I want to offer a tribute to the unknown soldier—not the one entombed at Arlington, but to the countless multitudes of our armed forces who are known only to their family and comrades-in-arms. They’ve never done anything particularly heroic. Either by virtue of serving in peacetime or serving off the battlefront during war, these unknown soldiers have neither fired a shot in anger nor dodged bullets and bombs targeting them. They’ve gone about their business quietly—swabbing some deck, working in the motor pool, fixing airplanes and helicopters, typing correspondence, cooking for the men and women at their base, or any number of background grunt jobs that have kept them out of the limelight and far away from the glory.
When they pass through an airport, some bystander may say, “Thank you for your service,” and though they smile in return they feel a little embarrassed about it, thinking: “My service? What have I done that deserves thanks?” When they return home they don’t have exciting stories to tell and no one holds a parade in their honor. They are our unknown soldiers and sailors and airmen and women.
And yet, they are the backbone of our military. Where would the well-known surgeon be if she didn’t have scrub nurses, lab techs, nurse anesthetists, and recovery room nurses, supporting her work? Where would a much-loved pastor be if he didn’t have a good staff and so many volunteers who do the work of ministry that makes him look better than he is? And where would the military heroes be if they didn’t have adequate supplies, enough munitions, accurate intel, medics to patch them up, and transport to and from the place where their heroism shines. Only a very few can be Navy Seals, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Recon, and fighter pilots. Most of our military just do their duty day by day wherever Uncle Sam sends them. They do it for far less pay than they’re worth and for far less appreciation than they deserve. Ladies and gentlemen, I salute you!