A Thank You to the Veterans

Others on my f-list have already posted “In Flanders Fields” and shared their personal reminiscences of visits to various cemeteries and memorials.

I’ll simply offer this simple salute to veterans everywhere, from one who has never served in uniform: When I was a boy, my older brother joined the Navy. Shortly after the terrorist attack on our Marines in Lebanon, my brother’s ship, the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), was deployed to the Mediterranean and took up position off the coast of Lebanon.

My brother wasn’t able to come home for Christmas that year, and there were times when I was afraid that if some crazy Middle Eastern dictator did something stupid, my brother’s aircraft carrier might be targeted. I was genuinely worried that my only brother might not come back.

In later years, he assured me that the carrier was one of the safest places to be, despite being a big target. However, he also told me about the kind of everyday accidents that can claim lives on a capital ship — the kind of incidents that never make front-page news back here at home.

A fire in a munitions bay. A landing accident that snaps a catch-wire and cuts a deck hand in half. An improperly secured aircraft that rolls off the deck into the sea and takes its pilot with it. A storm that can blow members of the air support wing off the deck and into the churning nighttime ocean.

Right now, our country is embroiled in two wars that no one seems to want to talk about every day. Our men and women in uniform are in harm’s way every day, and most of them ask nothing more of us than that we remember and honor their risks and their sacrifices. Even when we are not at war, they risk their lives every day just by wearing our uniform and standing on a line far from home.

November 11 marks more than just the end of the First World War (it was originally Armistice Day); it also marks the resurrection of Poland as a nation after 132 years of being the territory of Austria and Prussia; it honors more than just those who have served in the past; most of all, it is a call to all of us, civilians and veterans alike, to be grateful for those who have fought, bled, suffered, been maimed, or died to preserve our rights and our freedoms.

Thank a veteran today. It really is the least you can do.

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