Here, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I remember the veterans.
ALL of the veterans.
We often think of the GI Joe, manly men, meat and potatoes, “For America, Jesus, and Apple Pie!” gung ho types on this day. Those that want to go “put a boot in their ass” and say so all of the time. The yellow ribbons, the medals of honor. The parades, and the constant “remember our troops!” bumper sticker culture we live in. The Audy Murphys. Which is good. Those “let me at ‘em” types are worthy of praise as well. But they certainly have the market well covered. I just wanted to take some time to speak on behalf of the other type of veterans. Their stories and attitudes may not make as good a country song or as good a movie. But they are all a part of OUR story.
I remember the women, of course. Who are sometimes forgotten today.
I remember those who were not bred to be soldiers. The artists, actors, intellectuals. The meek and the quiet. These types have been summoned in our history as well. And they answered too. Some ended up as soldiers anyway. Others ended up in support. Drivers. Medics. Quartermasters. None of them enjoyed having to do it. All of them served. I remember the veterans that didn’t usually carry a gun.
I remember the ones that are unknown, but do not even have the fortune of having their remains guarded 24/7 at a national monument. Though whose bodies are lost at sea, never to be seen in mortal form again. Those whose families were denied a proper farewell.
But I also remember those who may have been lost to war, though not killed. Those who either disappeared forever into jungles, or perhaps into the tragedy of their own shattered minds. These types too were never heard from again.
I remember the soldiers who did not support the war they went to fight, but went because their Commander-In-Chief told them to do so, whoever he was at the time. I remember the veterans who came back from wars they didn’t like, and protested the very government that sent them into it. I remember the veterans who tossed their medals back. The ones who spoke out, and continue to speak out in loud, constant, belligerent opposition.
I remember the veterans that voted for Obama. For Kerry. For Gore.
I also remember those veterans that do not fight for God and County, but fight only for country, preferring to leave their maker out of it totally.
And I remember those that served who didn’t happen to believe that Jesus was the son of God. Those who were Hindu, Jewish, Muslim. Those who are Pagan, and those who are Wiccan. And those who choose none of the above. Those who do not believe there is a God to fight for.
And those who were black, that fought and died for this country, long before this country gave them anything worth fighting for. Long before any of them had anything to come back home to.
I remember the homosexuals that fought, bled, and died, throughout all of our wars, but had to deny what they were and who they were in order to do so.
Also I remember those veterans of the wars we hear little about anymore. World War I. The war of 1812. The Spanish/American. And all of the smaller, “secret wars” about which we are permitted to know nothing.
Of course I also remember today the veterans that died while serving, in accidents, or of disease in foreign lands. Occupational hazards, and deplorable barracks conditions. Those forgotten by their government.
And those that found themselves any given place in this country, or around the world that were lucky enough to not be injured in any way, but knew when they went that despite how calm things looked, the possibility was always there, hanging over their heads. Something might happen. “This could be the day. We could be the unit. Defense may begin right here, and now, with me.”
And of course I remember those who died in uniform when there was absolutely no indication at all that they would might be giving up their lives that day. Such as those at Fort Hood.
Finally, on this day, I remember those who prefer to remain anonymous. Who would rather go through life after their service and not speak of it. Not advertise it. Who don’t want to be a hero. Don’t want to be on television, desire no songs be written about them, and just want to go to the football game without the announcer asking the entire stadium to stand up and cheer for them. The veterans who now simply want to live their lives back home, having done what they set out to do, whenever it was.
I remember them all. I hope you do as well.