November 11, 2009
Veterans deserve respect, gratitude for their sacrifice
By AARON LONDON
TAKING UP SPACE
Whether you think of it as Armistice Day, Poppy Day, Remembrance Day -- assuming you are Canadian -- or Veterans Day, those who are aware that today is a national holiday dedicated to honoring those who served their nation in uniform will be in the minority.
For most Americans -- despite the public service announcements during station breaks in the middle of their favorite television shows tonight that say "Happy Veterans Day" -- today is just another Wednesday. And that is a shame.
In a time when military service has become more important, given conflicts in the Middle East and the post-911 world we live in, most Veterans Day observances today were probably sparsely attended, and mainly by aging veterans and their families along with some elected officials and a handful of citizens.
While today's climate and attitude toward veterans of military service is light years better than what it was in the Vietnam era, when returning soldierscould look forward to jeers, curses and even being spit upon, sometimes it seems as if Americans like to talk a good game rather than play a good game.
And also remember, today is the day to honor veterans. While some commemorations will include words about those who made the ultimate sacrifice -- and they, too, should never be forgotten -- that is Memorial Day, not Veterans Day.
It might seem to be only a small semantic point, but it isn't.
Veterans Day is for veterans. For those men and women who served and sacrificed and took the time out of their lives to put themselves on the line for the greater good. And for that, the least the rest of us can do is remember them and honor them and give them their due on Veterans Day.
But if you forgot to attend that Veterans Day ceremony this morning, all is not lost.
Everyone who forgot today is Veterans Day still has a daily opportunity to thank the veterans in their community for their service and their sacrifice. Just stop by the local VFW or American Legion post and simply offer to shake the hands of the men and women there. Politely thank them for their service and be on your way. Simple, heartfelt and sincere. That is all it takes. A few minutes out of a busy schedule and some good karma for the rest of the day.
With an economy just now beginning to turn around and everyday worries about children, families, finances and what to cook for dinner, it's easy to overlook things like Veterans Day -- even more so this time of year when everyone is gearing up for the holiday season.
But there is time enough for everything, if we make the time.
It's not about being patriotic or waving the flag, but about acknowledging an effort made by someone else. And it's not just the veterans who saw combat who deserve our thanks.
The thousands upon thousands of men and women who served in uniform and never fired a shot or dove into a foxhole under fire deserve our thanks, too. They all served countless hours learning and training and essentially standing on guard so the rest of us could watch high school football games on Friday nights and be able to choose between a half-dozen different brands of cola at the corner market and decide not to cut our grass this weekend because there were too many other things to do.
Simply put, their service at lonely military bases across the country or in strange lands overseas or aboard ships in the middle of the ocean was for one thing and one thing only: To preserve freedom for all of us. Even the freedom not to serve ourselves.
But however one feels about the military and the nation's policies, the service of veterans is not something to be scorned or diminished. It was real and they deserve our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
And it doesn't have to be Veterans Day to stop and thank a vet. Because we enjoy our freedom every day, that means every day is Veterans Day.