Another Veteran's Day has come. There will be parades for those who served in foreign wars, politicians will come and give speeches about the glories of patriotism and service and there will be interviews with vets on the local news. All of this is fine.
But what does it all mean?
Veteran's Day coincides with Armistice Day, the day hostilities with Imperial Germany officially ended on November 11th, 1918. This is the 100th anniversary of that date. The U.S. renamed this day "Veteran's Day" to honor all those who served in 1954.
I never served in the military but my father did, as did my uncles. Two of my uncles made the Air Force their career after graduating from the Air Force Academy. One of my earliest memories is attending my Uncle Allen's graduation in 1976. I will always remember the fly over, to a child it was so cool to see the planes in formation like that. I don't know what happened to them but my grandparents took pictures of the flyover and made the pictures into placemats.
I never denigrate those who serve. This dishonors the memory of those who served and made sacrifices, some of them making the ultimate sacrifice. Many of those who served are left with permanent injuries, some physical, some mental. It seems to me we fail them much of the time. Homeless vets, vets who don't get the services they need, vets who commit suicide, I know it is impossible to save everyone. There will be those who slip through.
No, I have no solutions. I think we need to remember this more often than we do. Parades and platitudes are fine but also remember it isn't all about parades and uniforms. If you know a vet make sure you let them know on occasion what they did or still do is important.
I never glorify war. It's all dreams of glory and bravery until the bullets start flying and the bombs start dropping. In 1914 men and boys signed up dreaming of a quick war and glory. It turned into a four-year bloodbath. There was less enthusiasm for World War II but that turned into a six-year bloodbath. The Korean War, Vietnam, these conflicts (and others) showed us there is often no glory, just blood, sacrifice and ruin. Politicians forget these lessons after a time. Soldiers often do not because they have longer institutional memories. Maybe we all need reminders from time to time.
If I have anything to leave you with it is this:
Honor those who served even if those who sent them had no honor.
Happy Veteran's Day.