As a boy, I watched as what seemed like every adult male in our community, including my father, crammed themselves into their old uniforms and paraded around the square as the high school band gayly played.
Some made speeches, some offered prayers, and we always ended with “Taps”, as mournful and evocative a song as you can play on a bugle.
Then we went to the small cemetery near our farm and placed little American flags on selected graves to honor those no longer with us, followed by brief and quiet reflection and remembrance of each person.
Veteran’s Day was up close and personal to me …
During and after my military service, I sort of lost track of Veteran’s Day. The city folks celebrate differently than the way I grew up with. The day seemed to become more about having a holiday, a day off from work, and sales in the big box stores. Patriotic speeches which were like snack food (temporarily feeding our hunger, but soon gone) fill the air and much hoopla occurs.
On a more positive note, I enjoy the many personal stories that show up around this date about fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and others close to someone who stops to remember their service … up close and personal.
Today, I have only one wish for our annual celebration of those who have served and those who continue to serve …
Let’s dump the day …
Instead, let’s truly honor our men and women who have taken the oath, worn the uniform, and done what their country has asked of them, every single day of the year.
Let go of the politics associated with whether you agree with every decision made by the country past or present. Let go of whether you personally served or even know anyone who has. Let go of the temporary pride that comes and goes with the appointed day.
Consider thoughtfully and carefully how our elected officials and laws affect active and retired military personnel and their families. Take time to learn about how benefits and treatment are administered and dispensed. Just ask yourself one simple question and honestly answer it to the best of your compassionate ability:
Are we truly honoring their service every day in how we care for them?
As stories of substandard and sometimes unforgivable treatment of those who have served continue to come forward, only one thought should be in our minds:
We can and should do better with our financial, medical, psychological, educational, and economic support of military personnel and their families.
Hold our elected officials and ourselves accountable for meeting this sacred trust to do what is fair, just, and right.
I am choosing intentionally not to beat the drum for any specific law or action that falls in this category. My plea is not about supporting or defeating any legislation or candidate … it’s about all of us seriously treating our veterans in a humane and just fashion.
Trying to truly honor those who serve and have served in the Heartland ….
For context and history of Veteran’s Day, go here: Veteran’s Day History