Veterans Day. More than just a federal holiday, this is a national history book. This is an immense volume, an epic, formed of millions of unique and deeply personal stories bound together through the shared experience of military service. Despite the uniformity of many aspects of military life, every veteran has their own story to tell. Many of these episodes can be of amazing complexity as they transpired on the earth, in the air, below the sea, on the water, and in space. In my humble estimation however, the true value of Veterans Day lies in celebrating the act of service. That is, the willingness of common Americans to devote themselves to do a job, man a post, and to dedicate a portion of their youth to standing watch over this great nation.
As we know, Veterans Day differs from the solemn reverence we reserve for Memorial Day. This is the last Monday in May where our national focus is on remembrance of those great Americans fallen in battle. My own practice is to commemorate sacrifice on Memorial Day and service on Veterans Day. For myself, Veterans Day is the nostalgic reflection of a youthful coming of age. It is also of bonds formed with some truly amazing people, oftentimes in remarkable times, places, and circumstances.
360 Degree image of the terrazzo level overlooking the Cadet Area at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Use your mouse or finger (if viewing on a mobile device to rotate the image)
Veterans Day is also a family celebration. It belongs in equal measure to spouses, children, parents, siblings, etc who if unable to be present physically, were there spiritually at every step of the vet’s journey. It is for every letter, email, text, video, and CARE package these folks sent which grounded the military member and idealized the physical location they called home.
Veterans Day links service members from different generations in their common cause of countering the many existential threats our nation has faced. Oftentimes the wide expanse of Planet Earth cannot accommodate diametrically opposed value systems, and one has to go. Veterans and their families are the reasons why a United States continues to exist and a German Kaiser, the Axis powers, a Soviet Union, and an ISIS caliphate are referred to in the past tense.
So a tip of the hat and a raise of a glass to anyone who has ever served, or has lent a hand to a Vet. Although my own time in the military has passed, I know that a person who will one day identify themselves as a Veteran is still on guard. I think I can rest easy at night.