As an individual with a lifelong appreciation of military history, I’m not drawn to the tactics and strategies, but rather to the personal stories from individuals. I’m fascinated by trench-level accounts of ground objectives assailed and taken, stories of running battles fought at 25,000 feet and 300 miles per hour, and tales of naval engagements where the enemy was pounded by and returned fire from beyond normal human line of sight. The ingenuity and amazing engineering that goes into the hardware of warfare is a source of wonder, even though the end purpose is domination or defense by terrible and violent means.
But it always comes back to the individual soldier, the man who puts his life and whatever grit and determination he will ever possess into the hands of his country, for the good of his family and nation. It comes back to the man who sits in his hooch, foxhole, AFV or on the flight line, eating whatever rations he has, regardless of the weather and other lack of creature comforts. It comes back to the sleep deprivation of combat, the ceaseless vigilance so essential for survival, the situational awareness and rapid response to both threats and opportunities that determine the outcome of skirmishes, battles and the overall conflict. I am and will always be enamored of the men who choose to stand and defend that which is precious to them, no matter the cost. Veterans Day is never a celebration of war, but rather of warriors.
Many of those reading this are the men I speak about. You have made that choice, submitted to the rigorous discipline and training, and then taken that preparation and determination into harm’s way – willingly. You have answered the call and served with distinction. And you have been good enough to share some of your story with me, so that I, in turn, can share it with others who need to understand the personal price of liberty.
I’m very honored to share with them also the caliber of men and women who have risen to that call. Your stories and sacrifices should never be forgotten, nor the sacrifices of those who came before. It is a collective national treasure.
Veterans’ Day is an all-encompassing term, but we must be certain to honor each individual whose service grants this solemn holiday its meaning.
May God bless, restore and prosper each of you. Be honored today and every day.
Image: Doughboy statue Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania; author Canadian2006; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.