Tonight I’ll be talking again with my children about Veteran’s Day, what it means to me, and what I hope it will mean to them. At ages of 7 & 10 it’s still pretty abstract, but worth a few minutes to build on what we talked about last year.
I joined the military not long after I turned 18. It was a job, maybe a career, a big adventure, and one of the more formative times of my life. I don’t know that I spent any time worrying or even thinking about the possibility of being injured or killed. I’d like to think I understood the depth of commitment that came with taking an oath to “…to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….”. Only words, but important ones – it’s a moment to remember when you take the oath and sign your name.
It was exciting at times, more often boring. I got to play (and yes, at 18 it was play) with things that made big noises. I was never shot at. I served near the end of the ‘Cold War’ when the US vs USSR thing was still something that drove planning and practice – more than once being woken at 2 am for a ‘practice alert’ that required loading up live ammo and moving out to stop a Soviet invasion. I enjoyed the challenges, didn’t mind the discipline, and grew a lot. It was a good time. Eventually I decided it was time to do something else and though that decision was a long time ago, there are still days when I miss it.
I can tell my daughters what it was like, the good, bad, and ugly. I’ll tell my daughters that we should all pay our dues, that serving in the military is one way and a good way of doing that. I’ll remind them of walking through Arlington Cemetery with me and why we did, and that while I was lucky enough to serve and come home whole – many do not. I’ll tell them that wars often seem abstract, but the people that fight them never are.
It’s up to you if and how you recognize the day. Most veterans will appreciate a simple thank you and most would enjoy sitting over coffee and sharing some stories about their time serving.