23 thoughts on “The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Eleven: The Service of Veterans

  1. Amen ! My father-in-law, two uncles, my cousin, my cousin’s husband, my son and several friends. My son did two tours of duty in Iraq in the Marine Corps and is now going to school on the GI bill.

  2. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit I didn’t realize it was Veterans Day until my husband told me when I woke up. Between everything going on at work as well as things being very busy at home I’m lucky if I know the day of the week.

    In spite of my usual cluelessness about when it is I sent a book to my cousin in Canada yesterday evening. It was a book written by a Canadian author and the book was about World War II veterans from a very specific part of Newfoundland (he’d already written one about veterans in World War I). That location is where my mother and aunt were born and raised. Their brother who was killed in the sinking of the HMS Hood by the Bismark. His picture (which I’d supplied to the author) and some biographical information were included in the book. Funny how things work out.

    I never knew my Uncle John. He died before I was born. I never knew him but I’ll never forget him.

  3. My dad fought on Guadalcanal, I served 27 years as a Marine and my son in law has been to Iraq twice and my daughter to Afghanistan once. I don’t say this to troll for kudos, but to say that in 27 years in the Marine Corps I never woke up a single morning wishing I was doing anything else. It was an honor and a privilege to serve. My first memories as a child were when my dad came back from the South Pacific and would put on his dress blues and use his cane as a sword to march me around the living room. To follow my father’s footsteps and to see my son in law and daughter follow mine makes me prouder than I can say.

    This country gave my family the opportunity to serve under the flag and to feel the incredible rush that comes from standing shoulder to shoulder with men and women who believe in a purpose and cause greater than themselves. So on this Veteran’s Day I say my own “Thank You” for that opportunity and a resounding “Semper Fi”!

  4. My maternal grandfather served in WWII–my mother was born on Roswell AFB in ’46. My father served in Vietnam, from 10/68-12/69. He came home on Christmas Eve, and my parents were married three days later. My maternal uncle got his bachelor’s at VMI, his master’s at VaTech, retired from the Army after the first Gulf War and has been doing private engineering consulting ever since.

    My father was fortunate to not have to endure jeering and taunting when he returned home, unlike so many of his comrades. My parents tell me that when he rushed to embrace my mother at the airport, the entire terminal (ORD, so fairly large) erupted in applause. My father and husband have always made it a point when they travel to personally thank every servicemember they see.

    I’d like to add my voice to the mix. Thanks, everybody. *Salute*

  5. @old leatherneck.
    As the son of a 20yr. Master Gunnery Sgt. I would like to thank you and all our Service people as I always thanked him for what he did for our country and what he did for me.

    Listening to the President this morning talk about our less than 1% who serve and then reading about just lately how we are losing almost as many military personnel to suicide as to combat really brings home how much we owe these men and women. .

  6. I agree completely. We have asked a tremendous amount from our heroes in uniform. Let’s hear it for veterans!

  7. I am greatful that you have included this. For whatever reason, being patriotic appears to be unpopular and our men and women in uniform get a lot of lip service but less attention than I think they should. (The latest statistics that I’ve read say that the military has lost more people to suicide than to combat in the past several years in the Middle East, and the recent information regarding handling of military dead…something ain’t right here, friends and neighbors.)

    My grandfather won a Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge. My uncle was a mustang career Marine who served two tours in Vietnam and was on the list for the astronaut corps when it was shut down in the 1970s. My parents met while they were in the Navy and were stationed together. My husband was a fleet Marine who received an appointment to Annapolis (before an injury got him a discharge from any level of service). My cousin is a career Marine who has served eight tours in the Middle East (so far).

    My husband and I were speaking the other day of how difficult it is for most people to make the transition back to civilian life, and I was reminded of what a friend of mine (career Army Special Forces who was black ops in Vietnam, and later went on to become a PA) once told me: the Army sent him to school for his PA after his last tour, and he really struggled. One day he was sitting under a tree in the quad, watching the students go by, and another former soldier, a noncom, sat with him and asked what was wrong. My friend said that he just couldn’t understand the kids walking by him, and the noncom said, “Of course not. You’re not safe – neither of us are. The government spent a lot of time, money and effort making sure that we weren’t safe. And we sit here looking just as normal as them. They have no clue and they can’t protect themselves, so we have to protect them from us until we go back to protecting them from everybody else.”

    This conversation happened after my husband spoke with a co-worker whose godson is a Marine sniper. The man was so proud of the boy when he was accepted to sniper school, and my husband told him, “You’re right to be proud, that’s hard to get. But you need to prepare yourself – the boy you love is gone now, and he’s never coming back.” My husband’s co-worker laughed him off.

    But recently he saw his godson for the first time in a couple of deployments, took him and a couple of his buddies out fishing for a weekend while they were on leave. And he came back and cried in my husband’s office, told him he was right. He still loves him, but he’ll never be that carefree, happy boy again. My husband says that, given people who care and about a decade of civilian life, the boy might be able to find some of his old self again – or maybe not.

    I’m sorry, I know that I’ve gone on. You just touched a powerful nerve for me. These are things that I wish more Americans thought of throughout the year, rather than just on Nov. 11.

  8. For whatever reason, being patriotic appears to be unpopular

    Meh… it is possible to say (for example) the Iraq War was a horrible FUBAR for more reasons than I have fingers and toes to enumerate and still respect servicemen and women in a national with an all-volunteer military who (for sound reasons) don’t get to pick and choose what orders they accept. It is no more “unpatriotic” for citizens of a free nation to criticise their government when it is due, than it is proof of sociopathy to join the military.

  9. For whatever reason, being patriotic appears to be unpopular

    I’m not sure why you think this. I live in Bluestateistan and you can’t turn around without bumping into an American flag or a “Support Our Troops – Bring Them Home” bumper sticker on somebody’s Prius. Huge numbers of people turn out for Fleet Week, and the locals are routinely amused at interviews with servicemembers who say things like “Gosh, I thought I was gonna get spit on by liberal hippies, but people keep shaking my hand and thanking me and paying for my beer and stuff!”

    But I think you’re very right that there’s a big difference between telling a soldier “thanks” and making sure she can get meaningful treatment for PTSD when she gets home.

  10. You’re welcome, John. It was an honor and a privilege to serve.

    My parents served in WW2 (Dad started in the Army, ended in the Air Force; Mom in the Navy.) as did all of their brothers, Army, Navy, USMC. Several sisters toured repeatedly with the USO. Grandfathers were in Span-Am and WW1, Army, and Army and Navy. I have cousins, nieces, and nephews, in all of the services now. They are a proud part of the 0.45% currently serving.

    “Semper Fi!” to my brothers and sisters in arms, regardless of your branch.

  11. I just want to add my thanks to our current and past service members.

    Whether you have served during war or peace, at home or abroad, by choice or conscription, you have given us given us something most of us cannot repay in kind. It is my hope that one day our government will repay you on our behalf with better medical, educational and financial support when your service ends. When that day comes and you truly get the benefits you have earned, perhaps that plus our thanks will be enough. Until then, we’ll have to fight for whay you’ve earned as you’ve fought for our country.

  12. Ugh. I wish WordPress would let me edit my own comments. I read, re-read and edited that last post until I was sure it said just what I wanted it to say and I still missed the typo on the last line until after I posted it. Of course it should say, “we’ll have to fight for WHAT you’ve earned.”

  13. @ Old Leatherneck “I never woke up a single morning wishing I was doing anything else.” +1 from a 21 year Army NCO, now retired, who’s had the good fortune to be at two USMC birthday celebrations, one in Al Anbar province. Bless the Commandant for authorizing us a few beers!

    John, thanks for sending me an e-copy of “The Ghost Brigades” while I was deployed.

    To any of the others on this forum who ever donated to CARE packages for deployed servicemembers, thanks. It may have been a small thing you did, but those packages often provided a bright moment in an otherwise bleak day.

    I often find myself at a loss for words when others thank me for serving, I can only thank them for their support. Neither Blue nor Red States have the market cornered on gratitude to veterans, in my experience.

    To the other veterans on this forum, a salute and thanks for their service.

  14. @mythago:
    I’m deep in the heart of Dixie, so we’re definitely red state all the way and I see many of the same sorts of signs and things. But we’ve also had several recent incidents in our area: a veteran wants to put up a flagpole (that meets the specs of his homeowner’s association) and no one tries to get him to take it down til he puts up an American flag. Schools that are no longer allowed to say the pledge of allegiance. I’m speaking here only of things that have been close enough to be reported in my local news, not including any of the stories that you hear from “somewhere else”. These things make me wonder if, however many “Support our troops” bumper stickers people want to put on their cars, people are really thinking about what prompts service people to serve. There are a variety of reasons, of course, but many of them choose service because they believe in our country, and it’s cognitively dissonant to me to say that I’m supporting the troops while at the same time belittling the things that prompted so many of them to choose to serve.

    @Craig:
    Believe it or not, I tend to agree with you about the Gulf war….as do my uncle, my cousin, my husband, my sister’s father in law (retired career Air Force), and a good friend who is a former Ranger and served a few tours over there. Most of the vets or active duty folks I know agree that it wasn’t well thought out or well executed. And like you, I find a BIG difference between disagreeing with the war and belittling those men and women who put themselves in harm’s way. One war doesn’t define our nation – thank goodness!!!

  15. @Craig:
    Sorry, forgot to say that I agree with you about protesting wrong government decisions. Some things, i.e. the Civil Rights movement, can be patriotic and still be protests. Being patriotic doesn’t mean that one is automatically jingoistic or blind to the follies of one’s nation.

  16. @christy: Which schools are ‘no longer allowed’ to say the Pledge? I would have to move to Berkeley to live in a more stereotypically liberal place, and the schools here have students recite the Pledge. (In fact, we recently had a Little Chat with my oldest kid’s principal because they had a ‘school policy’ that students must stand for the Pledge and can’t quietly remain seated if they choose.) I’m sure that there are schools that choose not to have students say the Pledge every morning for whatever reason, but that’s a far cry from ‘no longer allowed’.

    Regarding veterans and flagpoles, you’re probably thinking of this gentleman, and the problem was not that the homeowner’s association was OK with any other flag, it was a HOA rule about flags having to be discreet little things on one’s porch. That’s not really a patriotism issue.

    I don’t understand the argument that it is wrong to support the troops unless one agrees with the reasons many of them serve. You can certainly appreciate and honor the sacrifice our servicemembers make for their country without agreeing with every political view they hold about that service, or about the nation in general.

  17. Canuck here. November 11 is Remembrance Day up here.

    When WWII broke out, my grandfather immediately volunteered. He had two small boys and a wife. They thought he had tuberculosis and wouldn’t let him serve overseas (to my grandmother’s great releif) but he still went into the armed forces and served in Halifax. As a child he’d witnessed the great Halifax Explosion of 1917 and this always made him flinch at any “bang” sound. Regardless, he always felt bad that he wasn’t able to go overseas but still served homeside. He remained as a reservist for a decade and a half after WWII. When he died I asked for his medals. Simply because I remember every November 11 at the Cenotaph when my father, a minister, would do a service and my Grandfather would break out his hat and medals and stand quietly at attention. They weren’t medals for combat. They were for voluntary service and for the all the effort he put in to do his part. I am not ashamed that he didn’t fight, I am proud he served.

    Looking back at old photo’s I see how many of my Dad’s uncles served (overseas) as well. My Mother’s father served his military in England and fought in Egypt. It sadly tore their family apart. However, because those in my grandfather’s generation served, my father and I never had to. My father became a man of peace and of the clergy and I am a man who has never held a gun and never even seen one in real life that was not holstered to a Police Officer’s belt.

    Indeed, Canada’s military is much smaller these days. They are not less for their size. Thank you to all who came before me, those who serve now and those who have yet to serve. You have made my life possible. I will welcome my first child with my new wife in May. It is my fervent hope that I can pass on my reverence for those who have and do serve to my new child. I’d like to teach them what others have given up for them. I’d like to go to my new child’s elementary school and hear them read “In Flanders Fields”.

    I may be a bleeding-heart liberal but I have never, ever, blamed our troops for finding themselves in places our government sent them. They serve, we benefit. I thank them all.

  18. @mythago:
    Nope, not thinking of the gentleman you mention. Thinking of a gentleman one subdivision over from me. He won, and flew his flag proudly until he died earlier this year. It was quite the tempest in a teapot here in my little town.

    Re: the pledge, it was an issue in some of our metro area schools and our state legislature passed a law last year requiring it statewide to address. Can’t say I’m in favor of not allowing kids to sit quietly if they want to, though. No one should be forced to profess what they don’t believe, no matter what the situation.

    I think that there is a big difference in holding a political view and holding a belief about one’s country. I tend to be firmly independent in my voting choices, and have voted for candidates from both parties at various times. Their specific politics made no dent in my firm belief that my country is a wonderful place and full of potential. That’s what patriotism boils down to for me, and for many of those I love who have served – guess I probably learned that from some of them. And part of that sort of patriotism requires that you want your country to be the best it can be, which means calling out the government when it fails to live up to that (or really screws it up, as the case may be).

    Again, I can’t think of a vet of my aquaintance who believes that the Gulf War was a good thing (except for Afghanistan, which is a whole different coversation). But they fought anyway, because that’s what they’d pledged to do. If you equate politics with patriotism, then I can see and even agree with the distinction that you’re drawing. But they don’t/didn’t.

  19. @christy, then I’m not really sure what point you were trying to make. What beliefs do servicemembers hold that civilians ought, if they claim to honor their service, to share?

  20. Thank you John. My father went to West Point and was a career Army officer. I served in Viet Nam as a radio operator. My brother was also in the army a little later. Having served in a war, I always try to think of a better way. War should be a last resort, not just another policy decision.

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