Thursday, November 11, 2010
Today I'm grateful for our military Veterans
Armistice Day or Veterans Day was established as a legal holiday in the United States to honor those who fought in World Wars I and II, but has since been expanded in the USA to include members of America's Armed Services no matter which war they served in or may be currently serving in. Other nations who were involved in World Wars I and II observe this day too. In Canada the day is called Remembrance Day. In fact our friends to the north still observe the day more fully than we in the USA do. Though there has been some fiddling with the date, it is still observed by most nations on November 11, commemorating the day in 1918 when World War I formally ended.
As a child, almost everyone I saw; schoolmates, family, strangers on the street, wore a crimson poppy on Armistice Day to show our support and to honor those who fought for us, especially those who were buried on foreign soil. There was a national sense of togetherness brought about by this simple symbol and the dimes collected for their sale went to support programs aimed at benefitting veterans, particularly those who had been wounded. Red poppies still appear on the lapels of newscasters and many ordinary citizens in Canada while the custom has almost disappeared here. I remember that at precisely 11:00 a.m. a minute of silence was also observed in schools, places of business, and even the radio went silent. Once almost every school child could quote the opening lines of a poem composed by John McCrae, a soldier who wished to honor a friend who died on a Belgian battlefield where he noticed the bright, sturdy flowers growing in fields that had been disturbed by war and where the flowers seemed to flourish between the crosses erected to honor the war dead.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Perhaps it is human nature to ignore unpleasant things until they touch us personally, but most people I know are hardly aware we've been at war for nine years, ever since America was attacked by foreign terrorists in 2001. Those of us who have had loved ones deployed during that time are certainly aware we are at war, but those who haven't, have too often gone on living their lives mostly untouched by this challenge to freedom and our way of life, other than being inconvenienced at airports and uttering complaints about the monetary cost of war.
Today is a day to set aside our political differences and simply honor those who risked their lives or gave their lives for freedom. It's a day to thank a soldier. It's a day to remember all those who sacrificed time, healthy bodies, or their lives so that we can choose our own government, our way of worship, our educational goals, our careers, and even so we can sit down together with our families to enjoy a holiday dinner. When it comes to gratitude, our military and especially my son-in-law, cousins, brothers, my friend Kerry's son, and the young soldiers I met at Walter Reed Army hospital, rank among those I blessings I'm most grateful for.