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.