Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010

[Full disclosure:  I am an American military veteran.]

Here it is again, Veterans Day, likely our most misunderstood day of remembrance.  If you are a veteran I thank you for your service and I join my fellow Americans in honoring you.

It began in honor of those who served in WWI, a war that ended at 1100 on 11-11-1918.  It is celebrated elsewhere, named Remembrance Day or Armistice Day.  It was Armistice Day here, too, until 1954 when it became Veterans Day.  It was the fourth Monday in October from 1971 to 1978, in the frantic quest for more 3-day weekends.  That was settled in 1978 and it helps us remember what it commemorates.  It was a near-universally observed American holiday once, now not so much.

This is Joseph Ambrose, now gone as are all his fellow WWI vets.  They served in the War to End All Wars.  It didn't though.  He's carrying his son's coffin flag, KIA - Korea, 1951.

How many American armed conflicts can you count?  Not all of them, I bet.  Too bad.  Those veteran's sacrifices are already forgotten.  That's one of the reasons we honor them today.  Did you know that there is a memorial at SGU honoring US dead?  I didn't either.  SGU?  Southern Grenada University.  May I ask, how many war memorials on campuses near you?  Fewer than there should be?

Memorial to fallen Americans in the 1983 invasion of Grenada.

They're veterans too, of course, those fallen 19, as is everyone who ever put on an American uniform that they didn't want to wear, got that first brutal haircut, learned things they never knew existed ("pugil sticks", anyone?), were sent places they didn't want to go in order to do things that they usually didn't want to do.

We especially remember those veterans who were taught to use lethal weapons and told that they had to kill people that they didn't know much about, and about whom they were told almost almost nothing that was true.  Then they were sent home to pretend that nothing much really happened at all.

This isn't Memorial Day.  That day is dedicated to that special cross-section of veterans who gave all in the defense of their country, killed in the line of duty.  Maybe you've read my Memorial Day blogs.  If not, I hope you'll take a look at this one and this one and remember our fallen warriors every day.

No, this is Veterans Day.  We live among you, we work next to you, we share your fears and passions and dreams.  We may have gotten to our place in the world differently than you but here we are.  Some don't like us, some revere us too highly but mostly we are the background music of America.  Music like this, as sung by Ray Charles.  He usually started with the third verse, the verse that speaks directly to veterans, then sang the first, so that's the way I'll write it here:

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life
America!  America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountains majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America!  America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

* * * * *

Go thank a veteran today.  No, not me, someone else.  And tell your kids why you did it.  Pass it on.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderfully written, Chuck. I hear so many people (even today) on the radio who think this is Memorial Day. That's no a problem for me as I think it's good that we recognize those who have given their lives to our wonderful nation as many days as we possibly can. But on one of those days, I hope we will remember those veterans among us who are still alive and kicking, too.