Wednesday, November 11, 2009

With Thanks

Today is Veterans Day. Presuming my math is correct, which regrettably is a presumption that requires if not a full-blown leap of faith then at the very least a running jump of faith, today marks the 55th anniversary of Veterans Day. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (himself a veteran of course) signed the Act of Congress that changed Armistice Day - first celebrated here in 1938 to honor the end of World War I (11/11/18) - into Veterans Day. It became a holiday the purpose of which was not simply to honor those who served in WW I, which in spite of history's best intentions, did not turn out to be "the war to end all wars", but also those who had served in World War II and/or the Korean War.

According to this website, Veterans Day's principal purpose is to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. My oldest brother Bill is a veteran, having served for a number of years in the United States Air Force. I add without a single trace of regret that his years of service occurred during peacetime - when the War was Cold and claimed far fewer casualties than those that we are presently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mom had two brothers who served in the Korean War. I am a notoriously poor raconteur of family history - because my knowledge of it is sketchy at best - but I think that her brother John saw heavy combat in Korea while her brother Jim was assigned to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Mercifully, both made it through their respective tours of duty alive.

Today is a day to honor, to acknowledge and to appreciate the sacrifice made by those who serve and by their families and loved ones. It is also a day to honor and to remember those who served and have since passed on, whether as a result of wounds suffered on the battlefield or - as was the case with Uncle Jim - peacefully and as an old man.

This year - as has been the case for the past several years -Veterans Day is celebrated while we are at war. It is celebrated while the service of our nation has taken countless tens of thousands of fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters from those they love and has brought them into the immediate proximity of those who are considerably less enamored with them. For those who are in service now and who are engaged in conflicts raging far from home, I hope that next year finds them celebrating this day in the company of those who love them and those who they love. And someplace far from where they find themselves today.

May the road they travel take them far from "here", wherever that may be. And may they remain forever removed from the fields where the poppies blow.

-AK

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