Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, once known as “Armistice Day” to mark the end of hostilities at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This was how the “War to End All Wars” ended, but unfortunately it did not live up to its name.
When I was a youngster, everyone’s family seemed to have a service member or veteran in the family. Dad had served in World War II, or the Korean War or perhaps both. The older brothers all seemed to be stationed in Germany, Japan or Korea – seen through the innocent eyes of a preteen as lands with amazing souvenirs. I’m sure that some served stateside, but they didn’t seem to register in my long term memory. There was a draft, so young men expected to serve. Some enlisted so they could get their preferred branch of service. Some saw themselves as too special to serve; those with the means through wealth or family connections had the option to be deferred in order to attend college or were able to join the reserves or national guard.
Every family a military family changed with Viet Nam. With a draft and the elimination of most deferments, service changed. Some still joined the military out of a sense of duty or patriotism. Others joined because it would provide the VA benefits to allow the person to go to college. Still others joined because they had a minor scrape with the law and a judge informed them that their choice was enlistment or jail. Some of these latter literally turned their lives around under the structure and discipline of uniformed service.
Today, joining the military is limited to very few. I guess more people see themselves as too special to serve. But the reasons people do serve remain the same – patriotism, duty, family tradition or VA school benefits among others. The Revolutionary War and the wars in the Gulf (Operation Desert Storm/Shield, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom) are the only wars fought entirely with volunteers. The Reserves and National Guard have long ceased to be seen as a sanctuary since members of these components are regularly and repeatedly mobilized and deployed to the so called “theatre of operations” (the place where bullets and bombs are in regular use.)
I live in a military town, so most families in my neighborhood have a veteran or else someone still in uniform, but it’s not true in every community. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t participate. Here’s your list of things to do tomorrow:
Fly the flag – and fly it correctly. Every flag I purchased contained a guide to correct display. If you need one, an example is at http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/more/displayonly.htm
- Say a prayer for those currently in uniform, especially those deployed. There’s a family back here to whom every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman is special. My last deployment was when I was 54 and my parents worried about me as much as the parents of an 18 year old. You can imagine how it affected my wife and children.
- Remember that the original intent of this day was to celebrate that hostilities had ended. Service members could turn in their weapons and gear and return to their lives. Hopefully such a day will soon come again.
Veterans’ Day celebrates those who have worn the uniform – the cloth of our country. Be grateful that America is blessed with such people.