What Does a Veteran Want Today?
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. My work has kept me very busy, to say the least. Still, I’ve been here reading and enjoying what my fellow contributors are posting.
But today seemed like a good time to contribute a post of my own. It’s Veteran’s Day (originally Armistice Day). It’s the one and only day set aside to remember the veterans of the wars that America has fought. For most of us this is a weekend of department store sales, war movies on A&E and a 3 day weekend if our employers observe the national holiday tomorrow. But for some of us, it is a day that brings back memories, some as recent as yesterday and some from decades long gone. And this post is for those men and women.
Why do we care about Veteran’s Day? Most of time we end up marching in the parades that celebrate our day, which seems somewhat backwards to us. I’ll try to tell you a bit about who we think we are and what we want. Bear in mind this isn’t some collective that I’m speaking for, just my thoughts, based on my experiences and the hundreds of other veterans I know.
We think that today should be a day that we set aside politics and remember the men and women that have served in the military in wartime. We are men and women who have gone in harm’s way, been at risk of death and injury, and lived in extreme, austere conditions. Most Americans will never understand what it means, in this day and age of an all volunteer military, to serve in the military, let alone in combat. And that’s good.
Today, we want you to set aside your politics. Stop using us as tools in your political battles, just for today.
Sadly, the extremes of the political landscape in our country have gotten worse, not better. On the one side we have a resurgence of soldier = baby killer and soldier = victim rhetoric. On the other, we have soldiers as martyrs to a glorious cause. I’m a former soldier and a veteran of both the Cold War and the first Gulf War, and we are none of those things. We are not victims, brutalized by war and turned into unthinking, callous killers. Nor are we martyrs in the holy war against whomever the current enemy is.
We veterans of America’s wars are men and women who have, for reasons we know, but often cannot clearly convey to anyone else, chosen to serve in the military during time of war. We put our lives on the line, dealt with sacrifices nearly incomprehensible to the average American living today, and managed to do so with honor intact. We are Americans, just like the rest of you. I am neither hero nor villain, nor are my comrades. We are humans, with all the complexities and frailties of any other person.
I don’t think what I did was special or somehow made me a hero, and so it embarrasses me when you say thank you for my military service. But it also touches me deeply when someone goes out of their way to do so. Regardless of what you think of the rightness or wrongness of the conflicts, it is good to know that my personal experiences and service are viewed with value and respect. I have had people from every political landscape in this country talk to me about Veterans on this day over the years without putting their political views on the line as well.
And that is all that we ask.