I always have a difficult time on Veterans’ Day, trying to figure out what to say. Words seem very inadequate to the task of thanking those who have given so much to defend the freedoms that we often take for granted. My mind becomes a kalaidoscopic jumble of images — sepia photos of putti clad WWI troops; stark black and white images of WWII troops, storming beaches, holding woods, raising flags; muddy, grubby Korean War and Vietnam War troops, already starting to be abandoned by the American public; triumphant Gulf War troops, thinking maybe war isn’t that bad; and the brave men and women of my generation, fighting what is undoubtedly the greatest American existential war since the Cold War ended.
Layered over those frozen battle images are the Veterans themselves — men and women, some old, some young, who have resumed the lives the war interrupted, but who are still shaped by the battles they fought. I know some of these people, fragile old people with memories of Bastogne and Normandy, Iwo Jima and Pearl Harbor. For them, those times were the worst of times but also, for many, the best of times, since those years were defining moments when these men and women lived at adrenalin’s pitch, reached within themselves for qualities few of us ever know we possess, and made a stand for the most important value of all: liberty. Certainly that’s how my father felt about his five years of service in the RAF during WWII. It haunted him, but it also gave him a sense of pride that was his companion until death.
I guess that I, always perched comfortably in the quiet of my suburban home, will be reduced this year to saying what I’ve always said in years past: Thank you so much for the service you’ve given this country and for the sacrifices you were willing (and sometimes not so willing) to make. Our current political class may desire, quite desperately, to gloss over your contributions to our freedoms, but I don’t, and I don’t believe most Americans do either.
And would you be surprised that others are blogging? Two of my favorite Milbloggers, Blackfive (here and here) and Grayhawk, both have something to say on the subject. As for me, as other links come my way tomorrow, I’ll update this post to add them.
Steve Schippert highlights his 2006 post about a vet’s stolen honor, reclaimed.
In, of all places, the Washington Post, David Ignatius pays homage to America’s amazing military.
Noisy Room has a post honoring our vets, and an excellent round up of other links.
Andrea Shea King honors America’s Forgotten Heroes. (Although we here haven’t forgotten, have we?)
The Anchoress on great men you don’t know, some in the military, some just living lives of quiet service to their community.