The first, "What is a Vet" was written by a Marine Corps Chaplain, the second, "Tommy" was written by Rudyard Kipling--the soldiers' poet. Thomas Atkins was a legendary British soldier, hence British soldiers are often referred to as "Tommys". In this case Tommy has become an avatar for all of those who fight on the side of right.
For those not familiar with these works I bid you read them, and give them some thought.
What Is a Vet?
Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eyes. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel -- or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's alloy forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.
You can't tell a vet just by looking. What is a vet?
The Vet is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
The Vet may be the bar room loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel in Korea.
The Vet is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night in Da Nang.
The Vet is the former POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.
The Vet is the Quantico drill instructor who maybe never experienced combat -- but saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines by teaching them to watch and protect each other's backs.
The Vet is the wheel chair-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
The Vet is the career quartermaster who watched the ribbons and medals pass him by but made certain every needed bullet found it's way to the front line.
The Vet is one of the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose uncommon valor lies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
The Vet is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket -- palsied now and aggravatingly slow --who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife was still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
The Vet is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being -- a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
by Marine Corp chaplain, Father Denis Edward O'Brian
"Tommy" by Rudyard Kipling
- I WENT into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
- The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
- The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
- I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
- O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
- But it’s "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,—
- The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
- O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
- I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
- They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
- They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
- But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
- For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
- But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,—
- The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
- O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.
- Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
- Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
- An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
- Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
- Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
- But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,—
- The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
- O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
- We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
- But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
- An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
- Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
- While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
- But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,—
- There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
- O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there’s trouble in the wind.
- You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
- We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
- Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
- The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
- For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
- But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
- An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
- An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool—you bet that Tommy sees!