Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

November 11th. In Europe this is Armistice Day. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time the Great War ended. But here it is a day we honor our veterans. I am not aware that other countries honor those who serve in military service like we do. It is a good time to reflect on those people who dedicate themselves, even if for only 4 years, to laying their lives on the line for their country. So many Americans have served, and are serving, we see them everywhere.

When visiting San Antonio, you are always, always within sight of some member of the military on active duty. If you fly in, your plane has at least two or three. If the plane is not full, it is very likely they have been moved to first class. Fellow passengers buy them coffee in the airport, people come up to them to shake their hand and thank them. If they are returning from the sandbox, the captain usually announces the fact and the other passengers applaud them as a show of thanks. It is a far cry from the shameful nightmarish treatment of the Vietnam soldier.

Among this group of travelers are Marines. Your only clue is the jarhead haircut. You see, they are required to travel in Class A's only. Most choose civies for comfort. But if you are looking, they are there too.

There is also a group who are easy to spot, also almost always in civies, sweats or shorts, the most comfortable clothes for travel. They are usually men, though I have seen women too. Fit, laughing, active and straight, they are coming to San Antonio for treatment, or leaving, hoping for further duty, or having done theirs, hoping for a good future. They are amputees visiting SA for treatment.

Private Ryan is playing again on Nov 11, and we may watch it. The message always makes me think of my mom and dad, and how they have lived, having lived just the kind of sacrifice you read about in articles like this. Dad was 4-F, with bad eyes, a bad leg and a vital trade on the home front. But when he got his "Greetings from Uncle Sam", he didn't mention any of that, he went. His duty was to run a maintenance crew on B-17s and later B-24s. After D-day, he loaded up a trailer and a Deuce-and-a-half and went over to France, where he and his crew often drove behind the German lines (unwittingly), in advance of the 3rd Army and Patton, to recover downed planes or ensure bomb sights didn't fall into enemy hands.

But the remarkable thing was that he got home, went simply to work, and made a great life for his family, like millions of others. As we grew into teenagers, he anguished as we revolted, not really sure if his impact was really going to be a lasting one, though he never would of thought in such self absorbed terms. He was only concerned that we too lived a Good Life. Everyday all three of his sons hope we are living up to dad's expectations.

With 3 Nephews and one son serving or having served in Somalia, Kuwait and Iraq, I am more confident that we have not lost the sense of duty and sacrifice of our heritage. Though the "kids" of today's military would never admit it, just as our fathers never would have, these are Good People all around us today. People like my brother, 8 years in the Navy, 2 tours in Viet Nam including riverine craft. My cousin, 20 years and three tours in Nam in Armor. And you Mike. Americans are still, after all, Americans.

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