Friday, November 9, 2012

Remember Veterans Day

This week-end, many communities will observe Veteran's Day, formerly known as Armistice Day. The poster above commemorates the time the armistice was signed at the close of WWI. I learned about it in grade school and those words On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month remain etched in my memory and on my heart. 

Now, we remember all veterans of all wars on this national holiday--he thousands who left home and family to fight in places around the world. Many gave their lives while others survived and came home. Often they were changed people, horrific memories buried deep. 

I was a child during the last couple years leading up to and during WWII. I have a few memories of that period--of the ration books my mother took with her when shopping, of older girls using leg make-up because they could not buy nylon stockings. I remember cars not being driven to save on the tires as there were no new tires to be found. I have vivid memories of a trip we took on a troop train when I was five years old. 

I've written more than one essay/story connected with Veteran's Day which have been published in various publications. I am posting one below that is about our military members today. Remember the vets but also keep in mind the young men and women who serve today in a world at turmoil. I highly recommend a visit to the WWI Museum in Kansas City and the WWII Museum in New Orleans. 

More Than A Number   

The men and women in our armed forces are not numbers in a newspaper article. Each one that deploys leaves behind parents, sisters and brothers, spouses and children, as well as myriad friends. They are not numbers; they are people. They laugh, they cry, they love, they endure hardships, they work hard. They are human beings with all the emotions you and I experience. They sweat, they like to eat three times a day or more, they enjoy fellowship with others, they pray, they shake with fear more often than we’ll ever know. They are warm, living beings—not numbers in a newspaper account.

How often do we read that another brigade has deployed? Numbers? No, not numbers, that brigade is made up of people who smile, cry, tell jokes, treasure the photos they carry of loved ones. They have headaches and stomachaches like you and me. They get slivers in their fingers and bruises on arms and legs. They’re no less vulnerable to physical ailments than you or I, but they face dangers we have never dreamed of.

I live near an army post, so I see uniformed soldiers everywhere I go. They stop at the grocery store on their way home from work just like teachers and attorneys and librarians do. They pick up their children at soccer fields as a civilian mom or dad does. We are all very much alike, except for one thing. These soldiers, male and female, have volunteered to serve, to protect our country at home and in foreign lands, to perhaps put their life in danger while doing so.

Have you ever thanked a soldier or marine or sailor? Maybe you’d feel uncomfortable walking up to a total stranger and saying, “Thanks for all you do for me and the rest of America every day.” What a great gift it would be if you could say that or something like it to a member of the armed forces. Think about it the next time you see an American in uniform.

A few years ago, my husband and I were returning from a European trip. We were tired and anxious to get through customs when we landed in the USA. As we approached the passport checkpoint, a door opened and an entire unit of uniformed soldiers filed through. They were returning from Iraq, an even longer flight than we’d had. We stopped and watched these fatigued young men and women as they walked by us. Some nodded and smiled, others stared straight ahead. Some I could barely see for the tears that had filled my eyes. I wanted so badly to say Welcome Home to them, but the lump in my throat didn’t allow it. The pride that encompassed me at that moment cannot be described. I was every soldier’s mother for just an instant.

And what about the ones who didn’t return to walk through that airport door? The ones who came home in a body bag or a wooden coffin. My pride in them is every bit as strong along with a deep and abiding gratitude in what they gave for the rest of us. They sacrificed so that we can keep living in a free country. Yes, we Americans have many disagreements, but, even so, we are blessed in numerous ways.

Don’t wait for Veterans Day or Memorial Day, take time to say thank you to a military person. Say it in person or say it in your heart, but please say it.

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