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 sometimes emotional. You never knew why, they just did.
Until you learned later in school. Then you began at least to have a modicum of understanding as to why the old guys became quiet, or even choked up.
Some young Americans have been “chosen,” if you will, for the mission. Not everyone is suited for military service, for a life given freely for the love of country and family members left back home. The odd thing is, much of the time, countless of America’s youth really had no idea of why they volunteer; in the beginning, many are in it simply for the adventure. It is only later they realize the true magnitude of what they are doing.
If you were one of the “chosen,” you may even develop an understanding about why Veteran’s Day is so meaningful to those who have served. If you did not serve, it is hard to comprehend. As they say, you had to be there.
Let me try to explain.
When you first make the decision to enter military service, you as with most, 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 during the good times. You know as well as they, 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 that you pull on your boots, man-up, and do your job, your duty. And typically, you and your friends do so without complaining.
From this camaraderie, bonds become stronger than most can imagine. 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 if they are the first to wake in the morning.
Those friends are really true friends.
Memorial Day is a day to remember those who were lost. Veteran’s Day is a day to remember those who have come home. And to thank them for their service and their sacrifice.
For those who served, many spend the day thinking about friends, both those who were lost, and those who are continuing with and enjoying their lives after their time in service.
For those who are still wearing the uniform today, thank you. Keep the faith.
©2011 J. Clark
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