Veterans will most likely celebrate November 11th in the quiet of their homes. Those that think deeper about the date find that they are glad that they survived the ordeal of battle.
My ties to Veterans Day are much more that the fact that I am a veteran. It is the birthday of one of my two children, and that is further amplified by the notice that my child, born on this day, has the honor of a career in the military.
I know that Veterans Day is a day for celebration. However, despite the pomp and ceremony led in part by those trying to score political points, in acknowledging the sacrifice of these patriots in the never-ending-effort to secure our freedom and liberty, they pay lip service to the life and death experience of our men and women that have forever been changed.
Few take the time to reflect on the deep sadness of losing a loved one in war or in its aftermath. Worse, the broken bodies and minds that do make it back are, many times, put into a medical recovery system that does less to honor their sacrifice.
As a member of a veterans club, I see the damage and scars that do not show up on medical charts as veterans seek each other as brothers as a way to not be overwhelmed by memories, dreams and nightmares that are the battlefield. Things are sometimes so fragile that a gesture like a salute, a flag raised or a word said can threatened the stability of a veteran’s daily life.
I am reminded of my own concerns regarding my nephew’s battle scars that eventually took his life. Joey was a kid anyone would like to have in the family.
He was so proud to be a Marine that he took every opportunity to wear the uniform and practice the motto, “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.” He died one early morning on North I-25 in the outskirts of Denver.
Joey was a member of the 1st Marine Division that invaded Iraq and captured Baghdad. He later returned home a very damaged person.
Once home, his effort to cope began to lose out to the memories and demons of war. He could not even find comfort in being with his loved once again.
I also worried in this regard about my son Ben that deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. I wondered then, if there was some sort of protocol that would help to survive a battle and maintain sanity.
I soon realized in my own life that the families of those that go to war also serve because worrying, caring and changing expectations makes us all participants. We as civilians rise and fall with the ebb and flow of our loved ones’ fortunes on the battlefield.
Of all the monuments to wars in Washington DC, I find the Vietnam War Memorial most compelling. Rarely do I visit and not see the powerful image of someone tracing or touching a name.
Yet I have the “inner” attraction for the Korean War Memorial that depicts soldiers on their last leg. One can “feel” the tiredness and the surreal portrait of “blankness” of those left standing.
That is what many soldiers bring home from the wars they have fought and survived.
It is said that everyone that has been in battle and survives nevertheless dies a little bit to a lot. Let’s remember that as we take time to honor our veterans on November 11th.