A Day for Americans

I’ll warn you now – this article is not about baseball.

Today is Veterans Day. Perhaps you wonder what the difference is between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Memorial Day was established as a national day of mourning, to remember the American Soldiers that fell in battle defending this Union. Veterans Day was initially established as Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I, that ‘War to End All Wars’. History shows the armistice merely set the stage for the much deadlier conflict that began 21 years later. In 1954, Armistice Day was transformed by Act of Congress into Veterans Day, a day to remember all those who have served in the military.

Can the average American relate to the military, and what the American soldier/sailor/airman/Marine sets aside to serve? They cannot imagine what it is like to go into combat, much less be wounded in battle. One would have to experience it first-hand, something out of reach (thankfully) for most of us. I can’t imagine it; and I know playing Halo, Call of Duty, or whatever your combat game of choice is won’t adequately simulate it. But Active Service does not lead all to the battle field, and even those currently on the battle field have experiences before they get to Iraq or Afghanistan the average American can identify with.

If you have young children, and go on week-long business trips, you are familiar with the sad look on their faces the day before you leave. Now imagine that trip lasting six to twelve months. Imagine the child reduced to screams and tears as she watches her father walk across the brow so his ship can get underway for that deployment. A long deployment away from family is difficult, but manageable for the adult. For a three-year old it constitutes a huge chunk of their young life without Daddy.

If you have older children, perhaps you’ve experienced the feeling of pride when they complete a major life event, like graduation from high school or college. Imagine watching your son or daughter graduate from Marine Corps boot camp. The same feeling of pride is present, perhaps amplified, but tinged with apprehension and some fear because you know they will head to a place where serious people will try to kill them.

If you or someone close to you have had to have surgery for whatever reason, you know a trained medical team will perform the procedure. You also know they will have time to evaluate and plan what they will remove or insert, taking great care in both. Imagine the skill and heroism of medics, doctors, and nurses trying to save the lives or our young wounded grievously in combat. They’ve had no time to plan or evaluate, and they may have little time to fix what has been blown apart in order to save that life.

If you have had a friend or loved one taken from you unexpectedly and too young, you can relate to the emotions felt by those rendering silent salutes for the fallen returning to Andrews AFB in flag-draped coffins. You can relate to the anguish felt by their families.

Veterans do not need a day to remember their service. They carry it with them forever. Veterans Day is for the average citizen – an opportunity to reflect on what we have as Americans, and what those among us have done to guarantee we continue to have it.

Mike Metzger is an I-70 contributing writer, Navy veteran, and author of Padres Trail. Follow him on Twitter.

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