This Veterans Day marks the 100th year since the end of World War I, on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour in 1918. This horrendous war cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, among them farmers, poets, bankers, artists, teachers, writers of all nationalities. The war to end all wars didn’t.
Neither did the wars that followed. What has changed is the way we commemorate the bloodshed and heroism of those who fought for our freedom and way of life. Public holidays seem only to be occasions of commercial value—a weekend of sales with percentages off on goods from socks to SUVs.
This morning, I passed one National Cemetery with its rows and columns of white marble markers. My father, mother, brother, sister-in-law, uncle and aunt are all interred in a similar national monument 1200 miles to the southwest. Now that I am no longer near enough to visit their graves, my respects will be paid to the heroes of wars fought on this high plains soil as well as on distant shores.
I will think of my father who returned from World War II and picked potatoes to feed his family—a proud man but never too proud to work for his family. I will stand up straight as he, even on his deathbed, encouraged me to do whenever I, a slouching teenage girl, passed his room. I will think of my mother who, to support my dad, followed him from Maine to Georgia and across the desert to California, during the war against Nazi Germany despite rationing and having five children in the car.
I will think about my brother who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and continued to serve veterans as the director of the V.A. wherever he was posted. And I will think about his wife, Kathleen, who followed him where he was stationed and without whom he found life unbearable.
Along with all these, there are my cousins, brothers-in-law, my older sister, friends and strangers who have served in the military. We are truly “The land of the free because of the brave.” I sincerely hope we will never forget that but far too often we let these momentous commemorations go by without a thought for those who sacrificed to ensure we remain free.
God Bless them one and all.