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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today a lot of politicians are going to make speeches purporting to honor veterans. Wreaths will be lain. Trumpets blown. Flags flown. Words about patriotism, duty, honor, sacrifice, country, courage, glory, and service will be spoken. Then the politicians will speak about what really matters to veterans - the bailout bill, or the latest pork barrel project, or how the other party is a bunch of unpatriotic bastards.

Today a lot of talk show hosts on radio and TV are going to wax self-righteous and angrily demand that their listeners honor veterans. They'll take people to task for not wearing an American Flag pin, or for not having a yellow ribbon on their cars, or for not serving in uniform - all the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none.

Today a lot of folks who think of themselves as Patriots with a capital "P" are going drink a lot of beer and bloviate at great length about how the country is going to hell in a liberal handbasket and how we should be honoring veterans, Goddamnitalltohell! All the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none.

And today a lot of folks who don't think much about patriotism are going to go to parades and wave little flags and quietly give thanks for those who bought their freedom at such a high price. Some will stand ramrod straight even though some can barely stand at all, and place their hands over their hearts as the American flag passes, and in their eyes you can see memories of Saipan and Iwo Jima, Normandy, the Rhine, the black Ardennes forest, The Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Tet, Al Basrah, Anbar, and Bagram. They won't talk about honoring veterans, they are veterans.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives in the service will raise a flag in their front yard, just as they do every day - and pray that those same loved ones get home alive and whole, just as they do every day.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers who have fallen in the service will visit graveyards, they'll bring fresh flowers, and flesh flags, and fresh tears.

Today, some will protest. Protest the war, the military, the government. They'll use this day to burn the flag, to counter march and to demonstrate and it may be that these people are paying the highest of honors to veterans - even though that is the least of their intentions. Because, you see of course, that it was veterans who bought them to right to protest.

And today, some just will not give a shit about veterans one way or the other. They'll get a day off from work. They'll picnic, or party, or go boating, or hiking, or to the track. They'll paint the house, or do chores around the yard, they haul trash to the dump if it's open or take the dog for a walk. Or maybe they won't, maybe today will be just like any other day. Kids still go to school, here in Alaska. Teachers still teach. Stores, restaurants, and the mills are still open. And it may be that these people also honor veterans, by simply going on with their lives, by living their lives without having to be concerned, without having to worry about their security, without having to thank anybody.

Me? I'll raise a beer to my comrades in arms. I don't want thanks, or parades, or prayers, or to listen to speeches from bloated politicians who have never served. I don't want to watch wreath laying and solemn ceremonies. I don't want to hear Taps played.

What I want this Veteran's Day, is for Americans to remember what veterans fight for in this country. We swear our oath to the Constitution, and for the rights and freedoms of all Americans. All Americans, every damned one: conservative, liberal, and centrist; gay and straight and transgendered; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, and other; Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Red, and everything in between. If you truly wish to honor veterans, then honor what we fight for, honor what we lay down our lives for, honor what the uniform we wear represents, honor the Constitution we swear our oath to:

The inalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for all people in equal measure - not just the ones who go to your church, or belong to your political party, or share your skin color and sexual orientation. All people. Take a moment today, and think about it and ask yourself if what you do in life truly honors veterans.

Enjoy your day. Remember us. Remember why we do what we do.

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for serving, Jim.

    Cassie

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  2. Jim, I know you don't want thanks, and you'll probably be grumpy if I offer them anyway - but it's because of you and veterans like you that I wake up every morning in a free country with all the choices in the world available to me.

    So, for the time you invested, and the health left on the line, thank you. You have my respect, and my gratitude.

    Feel free to growl and smack me.

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  3. Ya know, I may be the daughter of a Navy man, but I've never been in the Navy and I don't take orders very well, so I'm gonna thank you anyway, Jim.

    Thanks to Jim, Janiece, and all veterans, for serving and putting your lives on the line so that I could live in a free country. I've protested the war in Iraq, but I've never protested the military. Because I know, as much as I wish the military wasn't necessary, that it is and that it takes a special person to defend the United States.

    Again - thank you.

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  4. I don't care if you don't want thanks. You deserve 'em.

    People like you fight and bleed and die because people like I don't or can't.

    Thank you.

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  5. Now why wasn't this in my newspaper today?

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  6. Veteran's Day is frequently commemorated by (a) Art Van Furniture Veteran's Day SALES!!!!, (b) people complaining about the lack of mail delivery today and (c) people complaining about the traffic problems due to parades they didn't know about.

    (sigh)

    Merry Veterans' Day, Jim.

    Dr. Phil

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  7. I am a firm believer in giving thanks every day, and so while I honour my family and friends who wore the uniform and those who paid the ultimate price on this their special day, I think that it means more to remember to say it tomorrow, or next week.

    So Thank-you Jim, even though I know that you do not ask for it. Sometimes in life you don't get what you want..but I believe you Do get what you deserve..and earn.

    And people like you, and my Father, Grandfather, Father-in-law and all of the the nameless others have earned it..and SO MUCH MORE.

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  8. "Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field, and serves, as he best can, the same cause -- honor to him, only less than to him, who braves, for the common good, the storms of heaven and the storms of battle."

    Abraham Lincoln, December 2, 1863

    Amen, brother.

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  9. Thank you and everyone else who has served.

    I'm one of those that's just going about my daily life today, glad to be able to do so because of people like you.

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  10. Jim, thanks to you and all the rest of the men and women in uniform who are willing to lay down their lives for my country.

    My husband's reaction to today being Veteran's Day: I had to hold the door for *him* because it's Veteran's Day. :-)

    Natalie

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  11. You sum up my own point of view better then I thought I could so thanks for that. Those of us who served (although not for your country in my case) just have to remember. Let the others fail to appreciate whaat was purchased for them in blood and sweat at their own risk.

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  12. I was just watching the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and they showed IAVA's new ad Alone.

    It was interesting to hear the level of cooperation New York City was willing to give them to film empty scenes of New York, including JFK airport, the subway and near the Flatiron Building. NYC's Veteran's Affairs office involved, I gather.

    The thing about Veteran's Day -- there are new veterans every day.

    Dr. Phil

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  13. It bothers me that Dick Cheney was the one to lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns while the President went to the Intrepid reopening. It made me grumble, "Doesn't Bush know he has a plane," the rest of the day.

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