My son came home from school yesterday carrying a little American flag. When asked where he got it, he said that he was given the flag by “two old men in uniforms who came to school to talk about the war.” He wasn’t sure what war they were in but knew it had to be a long time ago because he said, “They had to be 80 or maybe even 90 years old.”
I was happy that his school recognized Veterans Day not just through lessons but by bringing in real people who could speak about their service to our country. We celebrate Veterans Day to show gratitude to them – the men and women who served their country at times of war all over the world and at home as well.
According to The National World War II Museum, about 492 World War II vets die every day and there are approximately 855,000 surviving of the 16 million who served during that conflict. My father, whom we lost a few years ago, was one of them – the brave people who helped save this world from the brink of anarchy and disaster.
My grandfather served in World War I, and my uncle and some cousins served in Korea, Vietnam, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of them are veterans of foreign wars. They and all those who have served, whether they are living or deceased, deserve our respect and to be honored each year on this day no matter how some of us may have objected to these wars.
When we look at the statistics of those lost in all wars fought by this country, it is staggering to realize the numbers. More importantly, we come to understand that these people left the everyday comforts of life in our country to go into dangerous situations in order to protect it.
Unfortunately, political differences sometimes interfere with some people recognizing the sacrifices of those who were lost, wounded, or came home emotionally changed forever. Politics should never prevent us from honoring veterans. When I spoke to my Dad and other family members, I came to understand that politics seemed to have nothing to do with why they served. My father and his older brother signed up shortly after Pearl Harbor, and their desire was to join the battle against the brutal enemies of our country and not to support any political ideology.
Over the years that I knew my Dad, he rarely talked about the horrors that he saw and the friends whom he had lost. Mostly he spoke of the men and women he knew, the camaraderie they shared, and the rare humorous moments that he could recall vividly more than 60 years later. I could tell by the glow in his eyes and the smile on his face that these memories burned brightly in his mind, and I was happy that he could recall them so clearly after so much time had passed.
When I saw the little flag my son brought home, I thought of the flag we were given after my father’s memorial service, so perfectly folded into a triangle by young men in crisp uniforms who now serve as my Dad served. It now occupies a place of honor in our home, and when I pass it each day I think of my father – a wonderful man who made it through the horrors of war and came home and never bragged about it or expected any fuss.
The thing is that we owe all who served more than just this day which we observe annually; they deserve respect and the eternal gratitude of a nation that owes everything to them. When I told my son that I’m going to take him to see the veterans marching in the parade tomorrow, he said, “I’ll bring the flag and wave it for Papa.” In doing so, he will also be honoring all the rest of the people marching in that parade and every parade occurring across the country.
Hopefully, attendance will be robust at these parades and the turnout will let the veterans know that we are all grateful for what they have done. Considering that they have put their lives on the line to keep us all safe, that is the least we can do.