Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Veterans Day Meditation

I thought it would be appropriate to post a tribute to veterans today, but as I sat down to write, I wasn't sure where to begin. After all, I've never had a close friend or family member who was in combat. My brother-in-law, a lifelong Navy Reservist, has seen combat, and he's been deployed since I've known him, but since he and my sister have been married, he's hasn't been on the front lines. I have several older relatives, now passed on, who served during World War II. I recall photographs of my Uncle Louie, my grandfather's younger brother, in his Army uniform when he served. I assume that he saw combat, but I never heard him talk about it. Shortly after I graduated from college, several of my high school friends served in the Gulf War, but I wasn't in touch with them at the time, so the reality of war was still a distant one to me. Most of the people I knew were in the same situation: grandfathers and great uncles had served before we were born. Our fathers were mostly in the generation between World War II and Vietnam, so few of them had ever fought in a war. We had never experienced the fear and uncertainty of having a family member in combat. There was one girl at my school who was a few years older than me whose much older brother had died in Vietnam. I remember looking for his name on the Wall during a field trip to Washington D.C. My stepdaughter is currently an Army Reservist, but (thank God) she has never been deployed. The thought of someone I know and love dying in a war is still only an idea rather than my own reality.

There are still wars going on throughout the world, and there are still American military men and women risking their lives in defense of our country and our allies every day. But in today's world of technology, the fighting often seems distant and unreal. In this world of near-instant communication, even those of us with loved ones in the military don't have to endure days and weeks of wondering if our loved ones are safe. It makes it easy - perhaps too easy - for those of us who are not in the military to understand or even remember our many citizens who are serving in the military, and to understand what it was like for earlier generations during wartime.

So on this Veterans Day, I call on every one of us to remember not only those who are fighting on the front lines, risking their own safety and their very lives to protect the freedoms that we as Americans hold so dear, but also those service men and women who are making the day-to-day sacrifice of living on a soldier's wages; of uprooting their families every few years to move to a new base, leaving behind family and friends; of facing a future that is unknown and out of their control; of being willing to drop everything at a moment's notice to step up and serve. Let us remember to thank not only those who lost their lives and who served in battle, but those who served in peace time, those who cared for the wounded, those who worked to keep up the troops' morale, those who help civilians in times of civil unrest and natural disasters. And let us remember all the families who keep things running at home while members of their families - fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters - leave for months, even years, at a time in the service of their country.

To all those who have ever been a member of any branch of the military, anyone who has ever served their country - the U.S.A. or whatever their native land - and to all the families who support their service, to each of you, I offer a heartfelt "thank you" for your service and for your sacrifice.

Happy Veterans Day.




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