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November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a day of remembrance on which many of us - perhaps most of us - remember the dead rather than the living. That other holiday, Memorial Day, casts a long shadow. And so, rather than count our many blessings; rather than thank the men and women who served this nation and then returned home to raise families and work in our factories, businesses, schools, churches, and charities, we think only of those we have lost.

Or we focus solely on war, forgetting how many of our fellow Americans never saw combat. In times of peace and plenty, they stood lonely watches far from home, gave up holidays with family and friends, missed the births of their children, countless anniversaries, a son's first step or a daughter's high school graduation. They slogged through mud, slept outside under the stars, hiked for miles wearing heavy packs, braved icy winds on storm-tossed decks. They jumped out of perfectly good planes and years later endured painfully compressed spines and crushed bones in their feet. Their ears ring and many can't hear well after decades of noises from artillery or jet engines or fire from a battleship's 16 inch guns.

Because even practicing for war has its dangers. Even in peace time, they are prepared for war. They harden their hearts against hardships most of us can only imagine, and open themselves back up when a child or spouse needs a different kind of strength. But through it all, they can be depended upon. They are there when we want them, and even when we forget how very much we need them:

The weekend obituaries told the story. We lost three of you in Syracuse alone. It seems like we lose a few more every day. That makes it important to get two words on the table:

Thank you.

For once, we'll say it now, instead of waiting for your wake.

Veterans Day is Tuesday. Your day, really, although what it's become too often is a day off from school, a break from work, an extra afternoon to walk in circles at the mall.

Veterans Day. We have parades and ceremonies around Syracuse.

But many of you never went to the parades.

You held jobs, raised your families and put the war up in the attic, uniforms and clippings in a locked-up chest.

Thank you. They say Veterans Day is about remembering, but maybe it should be about appreciating. I see you around town, survivors of war and those who waited, white-haired couples walking arm in arm from church on Sunday, old men sitting in McDonald's drinking coffee in a booth, or, toughest of all, those of you left all alone.

Forty or fifty years or sixty years of marriage, a wife or husband who heard your secrets in the middle of the night, and now they are gone and you're alone with it. The things you saw, the things you buried, the things no one else could hear. Your kids moved away and you walk alone on Veterans Day.

To remember Okinawa or Normandy, Pearl Harbor or the Bulge, Korea or Vietnam, and now Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan. To us, they are names, places we can't envision. You went because of some cosmic lottery, because of the time and the place of your birth, because you were drafted or because you made a choice. It was your fate to go and then to come back and remember.

Thank you.

On this day, I am thankful for the veterans in my life. Some were ambivalent about their service and even their country, yet served anyway. Many don't particularly care for rules, but followed them anyway. They represent Navy surface line, Marine infantry, artillery, and aviation, Army infantry and artillery, the Navy nurse corps, and Air Force pilots and ground personnel.

Most are quietly proud of their service. They should be.

Posted by Cassandra at November 11, 2014 01:05 PM

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Happy Veteran's Day, Cass. Thank your husband for us.

Posted by: Grim at November 11, 2014 02:42 PM

Thank *you* for your service, both during and after your time in the Marines.

No better friend, no worse enemy :)

Posted by: Cass at November 11, 2014 03:13 PM

Happy Veteran's Day, both of you, as well as to the Spousal Unit and your lovely wife, Grim.

Posted by: DL Sly at November 11, 2014 04:16 PM

"The hardest job in the military is ... spouse." Thanks to all of you veterans, and spouses, past, present, and future.

Posted by: htom at November 11, 2014 04:49 PM


Take it from a vet: Let. It. Go. Man.

Posted by: spd rdr at November 11, 2014 09:33 PM

Frankly, I'm with Sly. Far too often the military spouse gets overlooked. Deployments are just one hardship among many. So I know it's late, but I'd also like to thank the spouses of veterans as well.

Posted by: MikeD at November 12, 2014 10:05 AM

The church where I now work had a special service for Veterans Day last night. Dad (although he attends a church other than where I am employed) attended with a men's group. My husband met me at the office and went, also. The pastor who officiated (not the pastor of this church, but one who fills in sometimes) is a veteran and currently a chaplain with the state guard. He and the deacon (also a veteran) changed out of their vestments into their uniforms just before the closing prayer and dismissal. At that point, he asked all the veterans to stand, and a microphone was passed around so each could briefly describe their service. There were a number of WWII vets in attendance, one of which was in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered. Some of them came from the officer ranks, but there were enlisted, too, and some junior enlisted. Afterwards, they had a reception. I am so very glad I went...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at November 12, 2014 02:46 PM