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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Have You Thanked a Veteran Today?

There are holy days on the American Calendar; however, like living simultaneously in the best and worst of times they are neither the Lord’s Day nor the Sabbath. One of those holy days is Veterans Day. Veterans Day is the day that has been set aside for Americans to give thanks to all men and women who have served this country during wartime and peacetime, and it gives us an opportunity to show our appreciation for their distinguished service.

It is easy for Americans to take for granted that our liberty is guaranteed, not only by the Constitution, but also by the brave men and women who are willing to risk their lives for the welfare of us all. It is amazing to me that the military can take young men, many of whom have never seen a bad automobile accident, and mold them into one of the greatest war machines the world has ever seen. Journalist Tom Brokaw described the men who grew up during the Depression and went on to bravely fight World War II; the Greatest Generation.

Because I understand the great sacrifice that our veterans have made in defense of Freedom, Veterans Day is a day that I lead my family in a day of commemoration and thanks. Our way of honoring the fine men and women who have served this nation was to look at the greatest war movie in cinematic history: Saving Private Ryan. Saving Private Ryan is a forceful look at what goes on in War. Prior to this movie, which was directed by Steven Spielberg, war films had an almost sterile look. Spielberg brought the battlefield, with its blood and guts, into our living rooms for the first time.

As I write this article, I am recalling the opening scene, when the infantry landed at Normandy on D-Day. As one of the more than 5,000 ships is landing on the French shores, the infantry became target practice for German soldiers who were held up on the beach. One particularly intense moment in the battle, has a young man running up the shore line, getting his right arm blown off, and then reaching back as if he dropped something. He picks up his shattered arm and continues to run in absolute shock. This was a dramatic scene of the real world that has been shielded from most Americans…thanks to our Veterans.

There was a time in American history that war meant sacrifice, not only for the soldiers, but for the citizens of our nation; whether it was; sugar rations, rubber rations, no new automobiles, curfews, etc. However, during the Vietnam War, combat became transparent to the American citizen. Notwithstanding the brutality of the campaign in Southeast Asia, most Americans were oblivious to its toll on the citizens of South and North Vietnam and the collective damage that it perpetrated on many of the men who returned. Unfortunately, this is one of the consequences of this country’s ability to wage war efficiently.

No matter your opinion or suspicion of the current wars – War on Terror and the Iraq War – America is in a conflict with a foreign enemy. Recognizing this fact, how often do we as a nation take time out of our day to consider, with a moment of silence or a word of prayer, the brave men and women who are risking their lives for an ideal that has been handed down to them by men wearing neckties and sitting in plush, leather armchairs? I lament because Americans have been desensitized to the ravages of the outside world. We post the casualty numbers of the Americans fighting in the Middle East and rightfully so, but we have forgotten about the nearly 100,000 innocent Iraqi/Afghan men, women and children that have been killed during these wars. Don’t their lives count for something? Perhaps not. And I say this with the deepest regret, but as a nation, if we are more concerned with discovering cures for erectile dysfunction than on providing childhood immunizations for the poorest nations of the world, then maybe we're not concerned at all about their lives during a time of war either. What a sad commentary.

Despite our…some would say hubris, but I say narcissistic, me-only attitude, more than 230 years and many wars later, America still stands as the beacon of hope for a lost world; and for that you can thank a Veteran!

God Bless those who have served our country and defended the principles of freedom and self determination; the characteristics that have, in many respects, made the United States the envy of the world.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

God bless America, My home sweet home.