Just a Typical Day
There were no parades today; at least there weren't any in my town. Nor am I able to recollect any such parades when I was growing up. It's November 11th and there's nothing planned that's out of the ordinary. I've just gotten my three children off to school. I've cleaned up the breakfast dishes and put the boxes of cereal back up into the cabinet. I've cleaned some mold off the back porch (that I'd seen when I went to go and retrieve hats and gloves for my three--as the temperatures are plummeting this morning. It's time to go and get dressed, drop my youngest son's bass off at the school and head to work. Typical day for me and for thousands of others just like me. Except for the veteran. While I don't know for a fact how the veterans feel--of any war; however, I imagine this day, Veteran's Day is not just another day for veterans and their families. Come to think of it, it shouldn't be for any of us. And yet it is.
I'm not certain really what to do about that fact. I know what to do on Memorial Day. There are parades and pancake breakfasts and solemn silent salutes punctuated by the sound of rifles firing, once, twice, three times. Fire. Fire. Fire. There are gatherings of people large and small, public and private to mark the day that some of our nation's finest have fallen, never to return home. There's backyard barbeques with hot dogs and hamburgers, cole slaw and lemonade, there's laughter that balances those silent moments of reflection. That's Memorial Day. The ceremony concludes often with someone reminding us: “If we see a veteran, say thank you.”
So, what about Veteran's Day? Why is it that I, that we, have a tendency to forget to say anything, to do anything to a say thank you to the veterans on that day? We move through Veteran’s Day as if it means nothing and if someone reminds us what day it is, we may say with a shrug: "Oh, yeah, that’s right. It’s Veteran's Day." No pomp, no circumstance. Nothing. Perhaps it's because no one has told us what to do, how to honor them. There are no parades, no cards, no somber songs, no significant slogans. Just veterans. I wonder what it's like for the veteran. There have been a few movies made over the years. The one that made the greatest impact on me, the one that still breaks my heart when I think about it: The Best Years of Our Lives. The ImbD plot synopsis describes it :
The story concentrates on the social re-adjustment of three World War II servicemen, each from a different station of society. Al Stephenson returns to an influential banking position, but finds it hard to reconcile his loyalties to ex-servicemen with new commercial realities. Fred Derry is an ordinary working man who finds it difficult to hold down a job or pick up the threads of his marriage. Having had both hands burnt off during the war, Homer Parrish is unsure that his fiancée's feelings are still those of love and not those of pity. Each of the veterans faces a crisis upon his arrival, and each crisis is a microcosm of the experiences of many American warriors who found an alien world awaiting them when they came marching home. (IMbD, Written by alfiehitchie)
Certainly there have been other films, The Deer Hunter, Born on the 4th of July, All Quiet on the Western Front even Forrest Gump. All of these films--all of them--depict the lives of men and women broken by the wars in which they fought. They show us how they've had to fight to regain some sense of what we refer to as normal--they've had to fight to reclaim the glory of a typical day. The day that I was having today—unawares--until I realized that I needed to at the very least take a moment to note my appreciation—even though I disagree with war as any kind of solution, even though I wish there was never a decision to pick up arms against another, even though I stand opposed to this and all acts and declarations of war—I appreciate the veteran, the soldier, the troops, the men and women and their families. I need to not take their sacrifices on my behalf for granted. Because while this may be just another typical day for me, indeed for most of us, the ones who helped to make this "typical morning" possible, have a name. They're called veterans. Today, I honor them. I thank them. Tomorrow I pledge to not forget.