It’s that time of year again.
Not for Christmas decorations of course; that now starts in September.
Instead we commemorate, among many things, the 11th hour of the on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, as it is said, when the First World War came to a close after the most brutal conflict that continent by then had ever seen left millions dead strewn across the fields of Europe.
Some of the physical scars left by the “Great War” can still be seen today.
Armistice Day ushered in a 20-year long interbellum broken by the Second World War which would claim, by some estimates, another 70-100 million lives.
The war which eclipsed the war that was then supposed to end them all also revealed even darker, previously unthinkable depths of human evil and depravity carried out on an industrial scale.
Though there are very real evils which confront the United States, and Western civilization in general, we’ve enjoyed the luxury of viewing those horrors, among many others, through the fog of time and the glimmer of computer screens.
On Veterans Day, we enjoy the right and ability to read novels, watch movies, and play video games based on the most traumatic events in human history.
This is of course not at all meant to scold you for enjoying such luxuries – by all means feel free.
However much we might enjoy immersing ourselves in these experiences as much as time and technology allows, Veterans Day is nonetheless a time to remember there are people who have done so literally, many at great personal cost, but who would enjoy trading banter over Call of Duty even if they make light of their own wounds at your expense.
Despite my profile pic, which is the only selfie which I can stand, I don’t particularly like drawing attention to my service not out of shame, but out of self-effacement.
Despite having served in the Army as a tanker, I’ve never fired my weapon in combat, never been in a fire-fight, I don’t have PTSD, and my deployments (one of which lasted only three months) we’re relatively quiet, with the exception of Jun. 28, 2009 when my then-battalion commander Col. Tim Karcher lost his legs above the knee to an IED in Baghdad, Iraq.
As much as I could easily make this a civics lesson about service, sacrifice and honor, think it’s more important to say that, as much as we’re lionized by the grateful and demonized by the hateful, many of us are ordinary people who, for one reason or another, chose to do extraordinary things and potentially risk our lives in defense even of those who might defame us – even when our service included unavoidable stretches of boredom.
Some day, as those 70 and 100 years ago learned, there may come a time where we are called up never to come home whole, or not at all.
However any of us might continue to serve or chose to return to “normal” life, there are still others who deserve it more than I, and I join others, both civilian and veteran in commemorating those who have lived and died in service to us and our country even if in seriousness I still can’t resist a joke.
Without falling to a feedback loop of gratitude, I say not only thank you, but thank you for being there for me, those who have served before me, and those who do now that I’ve closed that chapter of my life.