While there are still a couple of hours left of Veteran's Day, I've decided to write something. So here it is.
I wasn't going to write anything. It's not that I don't share the general sentiment most rational people hold regarding thankfulness for the risks taken and sacrifices made by those of our fellow citizens who serve in the military. Of course I do. But somehow a blog post seems cheap.
This is not to say that I have any issues with others who post something to honor soldiers, sailors and pilots. I've read, over the years, many fine tributes that humble. But nothing humbles more than the military man himself, merely by his presence, for his presence represents so much.
Part of what such people represent is the fact that I never served. It is among the few true regrets I have thus far in my life. Now at an age when I don't believe I could even get a waiver, nor pass a physical in a manner that meets their standards (at least I hope those standards are still that high), I have an appreciation for what serving and having served represents.
I shouldn't say I never appreciated those things. Indeed, I always had respect for the military. When I was in high school, Viet Nam was still a major concern for teens approaching draft age. Personally, I was not down with all the facts of the war being far too busy getting faced and enjoying the residual vibes of the Woodstock generation. I didn't understand what was going on, and though I was not among those worms that "loathed" the military or thought your average Marine was a savage scumbag awaiting his own My Lai opportunity, I was impacted by the distorted tales of Viet Nam and the conflict there and, in particular, what it meant for the average draftee. Too many uncertainties made it clear that I hadn't enough info to simply await my number being called as if was today's Lotto.
As it turned out, the year I came of age was the year the draft ended. I was spared the anxiety of learning that Uncle Sam wanted me. Within the next couple of years, one friend joined the Navy and another the Air Force. I was still engaged in the serious business of good times and personal pleasure and could not see the upside of enlisting. Strangely, I actually had a problem with the idea of doing so for personal gain. It somehow seemed wrong to enlist without serving my country as the main reason. And since we were no longer fighting in View Nam at this point, I didn't feel I'd be really serving anyway, just playing soldier. I wasn't really a big picture guy back then.
Now, and ever since 9/11 specifically, I feel I have very little right to make any kind of public showing of "SALUTING OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN THE MILITARY!!!!!!" I don't feel worthy. This feeling hit home a year ago and returned again this morning when I read the paper. There on the front page was a story of a girl from my church who lost her young husband in Afghanistan. It happened on 11/10/10 and I remembered going to the funeral. More than ever I felt that I had no right to bitch and moan. This kid gave his life. What have I done that measures up to that?
Yeah. I'm grateful. Absolutely. And definitely humbled and not a little bit ashamed for letting others do what I should have done, and certainly could have done, even though there was no fighting going on at the time. Sure, it's easy to say now, and I don't much care who does or does not find my words credible. But it's how I feel. I owe. Who doesn't?