This day, November 11, is Veteran’s Day in the United States. It started as Armistice Day in 1919, celebrating the end of the First World War, which was claimed to be the war to end all wars. As we have grown, we’ve adapted this day to acknowledge not just the closing of the hostilities in one of the most devastating wars in history, but we acknowledge “The Guardians on the Wall”. In the years beyond November 11, 1918, we have learned that these people, these Servants, are the protectors that allow us to sleep safely at night, that protect the defenseless, that fight for those that can’t, and that help any in need.
This day, around the world, is celebrated. Whether it’s Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, or Veteran’s Day, the message is clear.
Thank You Veterans.
Thank you for serving. You have had to leave family and friends to do a selfless job. Volunteer or Draftee, combat or peacetime veteran, you served. You served your country while facing overwhelming force from an Empire that had never been defeated at Bunker Hill in 1776. In 1812, you watched the new Capitol burn and you still served. In 1863, you served a nation that pit brother against brother, cousin against cousin, and friend against friend over the ideal of a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. You served protecting American and its interests in Cuba and the Philippines against the Spanish Empire. You brought hope to a lost cause by serving next to British, French, Canadian, and Australian forces in the hell that were the trenches of the First World War. You answered the call in 1941, not ready to encounter the atrocities that were occurring, with a resounding call. You served in Korea, fighting again against overwhelming force to achieve a stalemate and guard that wall still. In 1969, you served in a war that was not wanted, in a time when you weren’t appreciated, in an atmosphere that recommended you walk through airports in civilian clothes as you came home, only to be forgotten by a country that wished you never came home. In 1991, you served knowing that chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons sites were being bombed to protect you, leaving you with a mysteriously diagnosed disease not even recognized by the government you served. In 2001, you watched as our country was attacked, and served in longest war in America’s history. You have done these things and more, and I thank you.
Thank you for sacrificing. You sacrifice so much through the years. You have missed children’s births and family deaths. You have missed soccer games and dance recitals. You have missed morning coffee with loved ones and coming home after a long day of work to exalted screams of “Daddy’s Home!” or “Mommy’s Here!” You have sacrificed your blood, sweat, and tears. You’ve sacrificed your life. You have sacrificed all of this not for a job, but for an ideal. Whether the ideal is that America is the “Shining City on the Hill” or to protect the brother standing next to you, you have done it.
Please give my heartfelt thank you to your families and loved ones. They sacrifice as much as you. Your children live without their parent around. Fathers and mothers watch children put their lives in danger every day. They keep the driveways clear, the lawn mowed, the dinner on the table and the household running. They manage the bills, call customer service, schedule family video call time no matter the time zone difference. They keep your place at the table set, your side of the bed warm, and they do it based on the promise that you will be returning home.
And so, in honor of this day, I’m signing off slightly different. I’m signing this one off with one of my favorite poems, ever. The poem was written in January 1918 by Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, serving in a war whose only goal was to outlast the other side and men’s lives were just a part of an equation. The death, the destruction, the wasting, Colonel McCrae saw it all on the front lines. And in all of that waste, in all of that horror, he wrote the poem In Flanders Fields.
And here it is, from My Edge…
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.