Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans' Day to a 20-Something

a person who has served in a military force, esp. one who has fought in a war (

I don't have any living relatives that served in this country in wartime. I had a great uncle that was a Pearl Harbor (deceased prior to my birth) and my grandfather's time in the Marines was between wars.

I was taught to appreciate those who fought for a country and died for our country. I was taught to thank the men and women in uniform for their service. And I did and still do. Yet, in years' past, I've lacked a personal connection to the holiday because I really didn't know any veterans.

This morning, when I thought about the holiday, I thought more about the current war. I realized that I do actually know living veterans--and more than knowing them, they're my peers, my classmates from high school and college, and soon my extended family... This year, my cousin started classes at West Point.

Though I won't begin to speculate on where the arms of the American military will be in four years, I worried for my peers. My elders already have my respect, more so as veterans, but their experience, coupled with their place in time, conveys touches of wisdom that I may never understand. It's most striking to me that these peers of mine, former classmates and my younger cousin too (maybe), have and will likely continue to endure the most physically and emotionally taxing experiences one life could--solely to maintain our feelings of safety and security at home. Perhaps it's the worry and fear that makes us most grateful.

They have my respect, respect beyond their years. But this year I didn't just think about appreciating what the veterans of this country have done--I thought about what they will do and who I will know and how their experiences will effect them.

What will the veterans from my generation see? What will they protect me from?

1 comment:

CoronaJoe said...

November 12th? Looks like Sandy is remiss in her 'once-per-day' posting aspirations.

I suppose I qualify, by definition, as one of Sandy's veterans. Maybe that was her subconscious reasoning for inviting me to breakfast (and then making me pay) a few days after her post. Or maybe she just decided it was time to ask for that old iPod I had lying around. Both are okay by me: I don't mind explicitly supporting her 'social' or 'media' habits as long as she continues dragging me out for the occasional breakfast at God-awful on a Saturday morning. If it's a choice between Sandy and Corn Flakes ... pshh, no contest.

In response to the original post: I'm a veteran so Sandy doesn't have to be. In another time and place, say for example, Israel, young men and women are basically conscripted into national or community service. There's a legitimate danger inherent in this 'duty,' patrolling the streets of Tel Aviv or even standing guard at an American base in Germany.

This American generation has no concept of that. Not only are we not subject to a draft, neither were most of our parents -- there's not even a second-hand feeling of obligation toward sacrifice.

And so, when someone of the Sandy generation takes ten minutes to commend my decision to serve - without regard for my original motives - I appreciate that. It tells me someone's paying attention to the commitment 'my own kids' are making.

To clarify: I'm approaching 10 years of service, so any kudos coming my way solicit no more than a shrug and a "that's what I do." I came into a peacetime military in 1998. I was a Sergeant during 9-11. I re-enlisted prior to Iraq ... I had already determined my level of commitment to the nation's objectives, entirely absent of 'impulse buying' as related to my career. In other words, the War on Terror was, for me, nothing more than an expansion of my job description.

These kids today ... they enlist or commission knowing full well what they're getting themselves into. And I admire that. Even as they themselves commend me for my service, I can't help but laugh it off and say "that's just what I do." These kids joining the service today have made an active decision to serve our nation in a time of war. And that means something. Any veteran will tell you so.

They're not being drafted; they're not obligated; most of them are not poor or destitute of other options. Here in Boston, and similarly across the nation, they're some of the smartest, most capable young men and women our nation has to offer.

Thank goodness they've chosen to serve our nation.

Something I think Americans are, as a culture, entirely blind to: our sovereignty and 'superpower' status are by no means accidental, nor are they the consequence of mere geographical isolation. Had Napoleon been successful in establishing his Pan-Euro empire, do we think he wouldn't have looked longingly on our continent for potential expansion? In more timely and relevant terms, would Hitler had left us alone? Proposed a trade alliance?

The fact is, our nation has furthered its own existence by its will to stand up for something. And veterans are, by default or decision, a fundamental part of this nation's continued existence.

We don't actually know what it means to be threatened. The US has never faced an invasion or genocide. Sure the Soviets might have obliterated us from afar, but what sense did that give the average American of feeling truly 'threatened'?

Halting the historical IR commentary ... when critics laugh off the significance of our veterans' sacrifice, it's because they fail to recognize how very attractive American soil would be to a leader looking to expand. Our very posture as a nation deters all such aspirations.

Terrorism is no direct threat to this nation, as long as we have a national identity worth preserving. I would argue that the service and sacrifice of our veterans - the recognition of such an identity - is a foundation of our continued existence. Always has been, [hopefully] always will be.

Paying tribute to our veterans - past, present, and future - is a year-round effort. Thankfully some in the Sandy generation recognize that and feel compelled to write about it.