To the Point for 11/10/2005

7

TOMORROW (FRIDAY) IS Veterans Day. For some people, it’s a day to get off work and enjoy a long weekend. For others, it’s a welcome break in a hectic week between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

But, if we’re honest with each other, for most of us Veterans Day is a hassle. An inconvenience. A problem.

After all, the banks are closed and the post office is closed. The courthouse and other government offices at all levels are also closed, and if we want to get something done — well, that’s just not going to happen this Friday.

The schools are closed, too, which means that families with both parents working will have to find child care for the day. Other kids will wander around town all day, which causes some residents and shop owners stress.

We’d all be better off if we just ignored Veterans Day and everybody went about their normal, everyday business.

That may sound like good logic, but the whole reason that Veterans Day exists is that over the course of the history of this country; millions of brave men and women didn’t come to the conclusion that leaving their homes and their families and serving their country was a waste of time.

They probably had better things to do; and entering the armed services probably inconvenienced them, because they, too, had other things that they could be doing.

Many put off high school graduation; marrying their high school sweetheart; starting a career that they had always dreamed of — and instead went off to a far away place to defend this country and its freedoms and principles.

Would they have rather stayed home? No doubt. But they answered a call to duty and honor and country. They understood that higher principles sometimes prevail in life; and when those principles are threatened, sometimes our way of life must be defended.

When those times have come in the history of this country, men and women have answered that call without hesitation.

As the war in Iraq continues to rage; perhaps this Veterans Day helps bring a generation raised in peacetime to a better understanding of just what honoring these brave men and women really means.

I was raised in a time when Vietnam was a nightly update on the news; but for hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, it was more than just a two minute update before we heard the weather.

They went to a place that they didn’t want to be; and fought in a war that most of their fellow countrymen didn’t believe that they should be fighting. They served this country, and then came home to find that no one wanted to talk about it or discuss it or even acknowledge that it took place.

Very few recognized their sacrifice, and no one ever said “Welcome Home. Job well done.”

Those men and women deserved that, and I believe that it is a blackeye on our country that they never got the recognition that they deserved.

Korean War veterans are sometimes forgotten because they fought in a war wedged between World War II and Vietnam. For many people today, all they know about Korea is that Hawkeye Pierce performed surgery over there.

But our men and women traveled there and put their lives on hold to defend the freedoms that we all too often take for granted. We often forget that, and we take it for granted.

Everyday we lose more and more of our World War II veterans. Members of “The Greatest Generation” are national treasures that should be at the forefront of our appreciation and thanks. However, all too often today they are seen as old men too set in their ways to change.

Their story is a brave and wonderful one, and we as a society should take time to listen and learn before it’s too late. It is a lesson that we should have learned with our now departed World War I veterans.

But this day honors more than just those who went to war. It also honors those men and women who have served this country and protected us in times of peace and other conflicts.

My brother-in-law served bravely during the Beirut conflict in the 1980s; and his service is honored just as much as any other.

When you volunteer to serve your country, you do so many times without a knowledge of what the next four years is going to bring. For some, it meant working during times of peace; while for others it meant giving the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.

Each and everyday we all walk past people in the course of our daily lives who are veterans of service to America. Mostly we recognize them when they are participating in parades or national observances; or are participating in the funeral of a fellow soldier.

Each made a sacrifice of time and life to serve as a soldier — and to become a veteran. As the sign in the American Legion post reads, “It’s not the price you paid to be a member; it’s the price you paid to be eligible.”

Regardless of the circumstance, on November 11th of each year we stop and honor those men and women who have answered the call of their country. For some, it may seem like an inconvenience.

For me, it’s the least that we can do.