Saturday, November 11, 2006
Veteran’s Day, Not Just for Old Soldiers
When we think of Veteran's Day, many of us have the picture in our heads of proud but stoop shouldered old men in VFW caps mustering the effort to salute that flag going up the flag pole, some stoic with grim memory, others, perhaps, with a small tear running down their leathery faces in tribute to fallen comrades long passed whether in battle or from the ravages of time.
We busy civilians too often see these veterans as faceless, octogenarians standing at attention when the color guard marches by in a parade on November 11th and, sadly, they are easily forgotten the rest of the year by too many Americans.
Of course, we are going about our lives, busy with our families, our jobs and we do console ourselves that we pay them tribute at least this one time every year.
After the ceremony, those emotional old figures go home to their lives and fade into the background.
But, have they really faded so far from view?
If we pause for just a moment longer after our day's activities to think about it we will realize that they do not fade so fast from view. For they are our Fathers and Grandfathers, all still there when we return home form our memorials. They are our Uncles and, Cousins, sons, daughters, Mothers standing right next to us the whole time.
They have, indeed, gone back to their lives after the ceremony to honor their comrades and their lives are our lives just as the rest of us do. And if they had not, we would not be.
The genius of our nation is that our soldiers are us. Not some separate class, privileged in position or income just because they are in the military. They are not ever present, menacingly toting machine guns and prodding us to move along on the streets of our towns like the tools of despots and tyrants.
Our soldiers bravely serve their country and then return to it to carry on their lives among us as equals, as "regular" folks.
And our soldiers often come home better than when they left. More experienced, better educated, ever more worthy citizens. They come home to lead us as our politicians, our business leaders, our teachers and neighbors. They form families to bring more Americans into the world and create citizens better able to appreciate what we have and why we have it.
They are seasoned human beings with abilities and experience that adds invaluably to our nation. Without them we would surely be all the poorer.
So, when you see some older veteran, struggling to raise his arm in salute to our glorious flag, remember that the visage you see before you is not some shadowy figure only to be remembered one day a year. He or she is the best our country has to offer.
A great debt is owed our veterans, one that is difficult to repay. But, as we thank them this holiday we must remember that, though many of us may not be veterans ourselves, each veteran is just like us. A citizen, a patriot, a member of the family.
And remember most of all. Their duty did not end the moment they took off their uniform and again entered civilian life. At that point it had just begun to enter a new phase and it is a duty we all share alike: the duty of making this the greatest country on Earth.
Yet, without that sacrifice freely offered to our nation by our veterans in their youth, we would not be so free to lead those lives we share with them when they return.
So, thank a veteran today. He is not just a "veteran", but an American.
Happy Veteran’s Day, 2006