As we celebrate Veterans Day on Monday, many of us who have worn the uniform — mine was Army green — reflect on what our service meant to us and still means to us today.
It isn’t only our individual experience we ponder, but also the experiences of those who came before us, those who are serving now, and those who will answer the call to duty in the future.
We recall that our youth was given to an honorable comradeship that transcended race, creed, and faith.
Instead, it bonded us to each other by ties far removed from the frenetic posturing of the here and now.
Spouses, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, moms and dads and grandparents of service personnel all know these responsibilities as well.
One only has to see a blue or gold star in a window to comprehend that.
In the rituals of the day played out across the nation, many people will speak of such things while banners snap in the November wind and bands play martial tunes.
But past the flags, the speeches, and the inevitable retail sales and sporting events blared across our TVs and devices, what does the holiday mean?
This video here shares a solid sense of it.
Because when all is said and done, as Sir John Keegan noted in “The Face of Battle,” it is not the flag, or democracy, or a general’s orders that the brave have fought and died for, from Agincourt to the Somme, from Valley Forge to the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan.
It has been for each other.
The sailor standing watch and the soldier on point trust their comrades with their very lives.
That certainty of support elicits the kind of dedication that allows servicemen and women to accomplish missions. It brings gallant men and women home to loved ones.
And the protection of those loved ones plays no small part in the equation.
For veterans, the shared sacrifices, the gallows humor, and the rotten chow in the field all are memories that separate us from the rest of society.
However, it wasn’t always that way.
Before the draft ended in 1973, and from WWII to Vietnam, military service was a widely shared experience.
It molded generations of American men into individuals accepting of global challenge and, as said by President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address, into a band of brothers “tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace.”
From the men of D-Day, to the men and women stationed around the world as we read this, we as Americans live our lives in peace and comfort every day because they — many complete strangers with whom we have nothing more in common than national allegiance — stand ready to sacrifice their lives in adherence to a sacred ideal of national devotion passed down over 200 years.
If we remember that notion just this one day of the year — giving those who wore the uniform of the United States their due in gratitude and respect — it not only harkens to hallowed memory but girds ourselves and those who serve today for the crucibles to come.
These Americans steeled by service and forged by duty — and who have earned honor — deserve no less from us or from posterity.
Let us pledge that they receive it.
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