A friend wished me a “Happy Veteran’s Day” at 1201 this morning. He was the first to send such a wish in my direction this year. A fellow veteran, I replied “Happy Veteran’s Day” back, but somehow the word “Happy” just doesn’t feel like it belongs.
Maybe it’s the rain and clouds this morning. Maybe it’s the recent bloody attack at Fort Hood, or my memory of the young man with the artificial leg that I walked past the other day on base, or the gradual change in personality I see happening in our troops – strong and sobering evidence of the burden our men and women in uniform must bear on behalf of this nation. For whatever reason, this Veteran’s Day has more of a memorial feel to it for me. It is what it is.
We celebrate the brave men and women who have served this country in a special way. We celebrate the side of human nature that is willing to sacrifice everything – not just for a cause, but for the man or woman beside them or the memory of someone’s love. We celebrate the courage that thousands of men and women have found in dark hours that has empowered the human race to stand against the most savage stuff this world can serve up – ourselves.
For me at least, the day is more personal than a casual “Happy Veteran’s Day.” It’s a day to remember faces and moments. It’s a day to remember routines; personal victories; hospital corners; the correct way to put toilet paper on a roll; dark nights thinking about sacrifice and wondering if I would have the courage and presence of mind to do what needed to be done when it was my turn; the neon buzz of lights coming on a 4AM; smells of Hoppe’s #9, boot polish, and bleach; left foot first; and “DRESS RIGHT! HUH!”
I personally celebrate Veteran’s Day every time I look in the mirror and check my gig line, when I’m shining my shoes, when I jingle the dog tags in my pocket, and even when I find it hard to fall asleep when I am super tired. I am both proud of the commitments I made and of the company I kept. And I regret that I didn’t give more. As a veteran, I doubt I’m alone when I say it’s hard to feel like I gave enough when I see so many who gave so much more.
This morning, just like last year, I raised the flag with my daughter – she ran to the front door hollering “Wait, Daddy! I want to help you!” We unfurled that flag and despite our civilian clothes, we both saluted.
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