Thursday, November 10, 2011

More than just a day off.

Need a face to help you remember tomorrow?
This is the first time we had seen him in six months.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, internets.

Growing up during a time when we had not been at war for quite a number of years, I never gave veterans or Veterans Day much thought. In my hometown (or as close to a hometown as I can get), the VFW and the Legion were simply places where people went to get drunk. Or play Bingo on Friday nights. Or have wedding receptions (including yours truly). I was very much an adult before I made the connection that those places had anything to do with veterans. I was even a card carrying member of the American Legion Post 66 Women's Auxiliary and I still had no idea that it had anything to do with veterans. I thought our only job was selling snacks at Friday night Bingo.

It's not that I didn't know any veterans. Several close family members had been in the military during WWII, The Korean War and Vietnam. But it's not something that was talked about much. Or maybe it was but I didn't realize it because I was a kid and we weren't at war and it didn't affect me.

And maybe some of you fall into that category now. Yes, we are at war and have been for a decade, but when it's not smacking you in the face every minute of every day, maybe you forget. Maybe for you Veterans Day is just a day off, or the time of year when old men sit outside of stores giving out paper poppies for donations.

But Veterans Day is more than that.

First, Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. I used to get them confused, too.
Here's the difference, according to the official Veteran's Affairs website:
Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.
So, Veterans Day:

Memorial Day:

("In loving memory of my hero, my best friend SGT Karl A. Campbell
March 15th, 1976 - October 4th, 2010
Forever in my heart"
Also, please note the five children he left behind. Sadly, these vinyl memorials for soldiers--all husbands, sons and fathers--are all too commonplace around here.)

Don't worry. No one is going to get their uniform in a twist if you remember those who died on Veterans Day or thank a living soldier on Memorial Day.

My husband, and every military member like him, make huge sacrifices to protect our freedoms. They leave their families for months or years at a time to go off to war. Even those who aren't on the front lines still face hardship and danger. And those who are on the home front are working to either support those who are deployed, or preparing for their turn to deploy next.

You may not agree with the wars we're fighting (goodness knows I don't), but politics have nothing to do with their sacrifice. Our military members take an oath to serve not a particular political party or a particular president, but to serve and protect our country and all those who live in it. They don't get to choose how and where they keep that oath. You do, with your votes.

So tomorrow as you enjoy your day off (if you have one), take a moment to remember those soldiers who are away from their families. Who have no day off. And don't forget those who haven't been deployed, because by merely taking the oath to serve, they have demonstrated their willingness to put their life on the line if need be.

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