When you’re a kid you really have no idea about the meaning behind Veteran’s Day. It is just another of those days in November, except that on the 11th, the old guys who were soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines get teary-eyed and choked up. You never knew why, they just did.
Until you learned later in school. You learn about “The Great War” and how it ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in 1918. There were supposed to be no more wars. After studying this in school, you start to at least grasp a modicum of understanding as to why the old guys choked up.
If you were one of the “chosen,” you may even have developed a true understanding as to why Veteran’s Day is so meaningful to those of us who have served. If you weren’t there, it is hard to comprehend.
Let me try to explain.
When you first make the decision to enter military service, as with most you wonder what made you make that decision. You end up second-guessing yourself for a while and at first, it seems lonely.
Then you make a friend. At the time, you don’t realize it, but your new friend has just become a friend for life. He or she helps you make it through basic training or through OCS. Before you know it, you both graduate and begin your careers.
You make more friends, really good friends. You quickly find out these new friends are the kinds of friends who will watch your back in the worst of times as well as the good times. You know as well as they know, you will always be friends.
You profoundly enjoy the pleasure of their company and that of their families.
It is because of your family and your friend’s families you pull on your boots, man-up, and do your job, your duty. And typically, you and your buddies do so without complaining.
From this camaraderie, from this sharing of common trials and tribulations, bonds become stronger than most can come close to imagining. It would not be an imposition to show up without notice at 0100 hours in need of a place to sleep. One military friend would simply wake up, show the other where the head might be, help him fix a rack, and point out which button to push on the coffee machine in the morning.
Only military members and their families fully know and comprehend the depth of this type of friendship. It is this level of devotion to one another and to country and duty which makes the military a unique experience of which only sailors, soldiers, marines, airmen, and coastguardsmen are aware.
The bond between personnel is amazingly tight. It is a bond which has been, will be, and has endured testing of the extreme. It is a bonding of friendship which takes place amazingly fast and lasts forever.
And this is why, during Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, it is sometimes hard for veterans to make it through the day without choking up. For you see, some of those friends, some of those comrades, they are gone.
Some were lost in combat, some during peacetime. It does not matter. Those lost in war died for a cause much larger than themselves and those who died preparing for and ready to go to war died for the same reasons.
Personally, more than 20 of my friends are gone. I was lucky. They were not. I miss each man and woman terribly to this day.
Up north, way up north in Canada, Musician Terry Kelly captured the true essence of all those from all nations who gave everything in defending our freedoms. Take a moment today, at precisely 11 a.m., for just a moment of silence for those who gave all to give us everything.
It is only A Pittance of Time.
© 2010 J. Clark