First, I hope everyone had a reflective and aware Veteran's Day. I use those two adjectives because I can't find any reason to celebrate the day. Not to mean that I view it as a negative thing, quite the opposite. I think reflection on and realization of the sacrifices of the American "citizen soldier" - and indeed those across the world - should ultimately have a sobering but positive impact on someone.
As my cousin DrMomentum points out, Veteran's Day is about peace and the price at which it was bought. Being a nostalgic type and something of a history buff, I tend to go way, way back - to the Armistice itself or before - to reflect. I have to admit World War I fascinates me. Why? One name. Frank Buckles. He's the only living American WWI veteran. He's one of maybe five in the world left alive, and when they die, any and all memory of "The Great War" will die with him. Of course, we will still have records, but still - when that final person passes, to me we truly lose the connection to that period. The finality of losing that connection, to me, is really something to ponder. It's a fate that ultimately awaits all of us and those memories and experiences we carry.
I make it a point to listen to the song "The Green Fields of France" at least once on Veteran's Day. This version is sung by John McDermott, and some elements of the millenial generation probably know the song, from the Dropkick Murphys' 2005 Album "The Warrior's Code".
I find the verbal imagery very powerful, the description of the horrors and consequences of war, and the thought that it is possible to lose the memory of a person and an event forever - "or are you a face, without even a name"? Which brings me back to Mr. Buckles and the rest of the 24.9 Million living veterans in the United States.
Today is the day we try to keep all those who came back do not become "faces, without even a name" - that their collective memory, their experience, is not forgotten.
Why? Not just for their sake, but for everyone's. We can't just honor what they did, we have to complete their work. The last verse of favorite poem of mine, In Flanders Fields, speaks to this:
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.
Again, the poem is about those who did not come back, but the direction - to take up the quarrel, hold the torch high and to not break faith - means as much to those who did. Doubtless in 1915 this was an admonition to take up arms, to join the fight. But today, it must mean more.
We must seek out and eliminate terrorists. We must also work to eliminate those conditions that allow extremism to take root. We must secure our current supply of energy. We must also diversify our energy requirements. We must be strong and ready to defeat emerging threats. We must also be willing to more effectively use communication and diplomacy as a deterrent.
I do not think mankind - on an individual or societal scale - will ever overcome its competitive nature. The world will always be turning out more veterans. We as a people and a nation must do everything in our power to make sure we only do it when absolutely necessary.
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