“Do you know what a soldier is, young man? He’s the chap who makes it possible for civilised folk to despise war.” – Allan Massie
Since the concept was introduced by President Wilson in 1919 and made official in 1938, November 11th has held a sacred place in our national hearts as a date to honor our military veterans. Armistice Day has gone through it’s share of political shape-shifting over the years, but the intent has remained true, and whatever your ideology, the notion of gratitude is one that should lie at the heart of the day, and here’s why:
To volunteer in the armed forces (or to have been conscripted, once upon a time), is to willingly give up control of your life to Uncle Sam so that people like me can go about our ordinary struggles, ignorant of the threats that those who would wish us harm for whatever reason. We take for granted that foreign invasion on our soil won’t be tolerated lightly, that our fellow Americans will be protected by those who are armed, trained and put directly into harm’s way, and we don’t give it a thought. These men and women, often too young to enjoy a cold beer in a tavern, will be shipped away to a distant and hostile land, and often put their own lives on the line for reasons that are unknown to even them. What an amazing thing to answer such a demand.
I realize it’s simplistic to believe that each member of our armed forces has signed up for selfless sacrifice and duty to country. The reasons for joining are as varied as the people who do and, like the fire service, I’m reasonably sure there are a fair share of dirtbags who are in the system for whatever reason, but it really doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to single out one particular branch of the military, I’m not trying to delve into any politics, I’m just trying to say thank you.
So, thank you, all the of the military people in my life I’ve had the honor of knowing, from my brothers Davis, Alan & Mat (pictured above), to the numerous members of my fire department family with a military background to the friends I’ve made all along the way. I can say this for each and every one of them: they’ve made a choice at some point in their life to surrender their own freedoms and dreams for the greater good, sometimes at such personal cost that they never got to come home to enjoy their own freedom. Those that do are affected in ways that I’ll never fully understand, for I haven’t seen the things they’ve had to; I know that the fire service opens your eyes to things that you wish you could un-see, but unfortunately, that’s the nature of this life. What some of our vets have had to endure is beyond my comprehension (read an article by my brother Mat on dealing with PTSD here), but at the end of this very important day, I hope he and his fellow soldiers know that in our little corner of this world, my boys and I are so very grateful for their service. Our thanks as a nation needs to go beyond a day, without a doubt, but on this day set aside to honor you, please accept the respect and gratitude from those who you’ve served and continue to protect.
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