Veterans Day

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My wife and I walk graveyards as often as we find them. There are stories there, etched and carved in stone.

In the course of our travels we have found the occasional military burial ground. These places hold a more reverent feeling for us than others. The names and dates reflect tough choices and huge sacrifice in the interest of our nation. The tears and dreams of individuals, but also families, lie unrealized beneath the soil. Whether we feel the wars were more than justified, or not, we hold these fallen to our hearts and thank them for protecting the principles of freedom that this republic was founded on.

And we wonder what the patriots of the past would have to say about the current times and troubles of the present. What would the men at Bataan have to say to us about waterboarding? Would the earliest graves hold opinions about lobbyists and taxation without representation? How would the Irish casualties of WWI have commented on immigration? The dead black heroes of Vietnam, living in the civil rights era, might have something to say about racism in America today.

The thing is... these dead have already spoken. They have laid down their lives, and their futures, to be sacrificed in order that we who are left behind have a better story to tell. Although I'm sure every one of the deceased warriors would gripe if they could about the food, the footwear, and the officers in charge, and might argue about the particulars of any one situation or issue, just as we all do, I am pretty sure they would be proud of their service and the nation they have made.

Sometimes I wonder though... do they shake their heads at the discord? At the hostility? At the mean spirited, I'm-not-gonna-listen, it's my way or the highway, I'm right and you're wrong, entrenched, politicized, polarized, dissention?

You see, when all is over and done with, we citizens have a responsibility too.

If we are to honor the patriots before us, those sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice, then we owe something to them. Not just that we can live our lives in relative harmony, make the American dream real, or have the right to do whatever we choose... but also to listen to others and change our minds when they speak the truth. To agree with reason, logic, and evidence rather than the loudest angry mouth. We, those of us that have never been in harms way, have as great a responsibility to this nation as those lying under the earth with flags on their graves. We have to make it work. We have to make it better. We owe a debt. A great and burdensome debt if we fail, but an easy load if we make our nation and the world better.

If you can, go visit a cemetery. Visit one with flags flying, holding the hand of someone you love. And think about the thoughts that are silenced beneath the grass.
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My Dad and his older brother served in WWII. My Dad in the Marines in the South Pacific and his brother in Europe. His Brother was shot down over Europe, almost made it into Switzerland, but German troops caught up with him and he spent 1-2 years as a German POW.

Never really talked to either of them about those times because I thought they might prefer not to recall all they went through. My uncle said the Germans treated the Americans better than they treated the Russians. My Dad told me of an agreement all the guys had with each other should a certain event occur. Watching a movie once there was a scene where the landing craft were dropping soldiers out in the surf and the beach was covered with bodies, and I ask my Dad how the guys had the courage to keep trying to get onto the island. He said they had a choice they could take their chances on the beach or die right there in the landing craft. One of the officers would shoot any that declined to go ashore. So after that I chose not to pry into this chapter of his life.

I encountered a WW II vet once by accident when out and about looking for cattle to buy. He told me he didn't think anyone appreciated that he had served. I thought that was really sad. I told him I appreciated what my Dad, his Brother and all the other vets had done to insure my generation could wake up every morning safe in our homes and to enjoy all the freedoms we have.

But "Freedom has a price."

I look at the picture of my Dad as an 8 or 9 year old boy with his little mustang mare in Wyoming and there is no way to have known the journey he would one day volunteer to travel.
On behalf of my husband, thank you all for these posts. Some of them brought tears to my eyes. My husband was in the Air Force during Viet Nam, and of course, was spit on and berated when he got home. Every time someone thanks him for the job he did back then, he's surprised. I'm going to let him read this thread, though. It will lift his spirits.

Last year, a friend of mine in Kansas got her son's sixth grade class to write thank you letters to my husband. They pick a veteran or two every year to send thank you letters to. Well, we didn't know anything about it, until this fat envelope showed up with about 30 hand-made cards from the kids. He cried when he opened it and saw all of those beautiful thank you letters, with his name on each one. Heck, even I cried.
When I was in Nam, (1966 TACP with the 2nd Brigade ROK Marines) my sister put my name in the paper as a guy in Nam. I received well over 5,000 letters at once from that. I, along with others on our small team, tried to answer them. Never did get to all of them. That lifted our spirits quite abit. Remembered that when I passed through SFO on Christmas Day 1966. People there weren't pleasant.

Thanks Again for all the good thoughts and the good people here at home. You all were worth it.

Later, Msgt Cal.