I’ve been on a war-reading kick recently. The Good Soldiers which I recommended in my blog week’s ago has nudged me along. I’ve followed that book with Tim O’Brien’s splendid novel about soldiers in Viet Nam. He calls it The Things They Carried. My, my what a book. He zeroes in on one Infantry Company in the Viet Nam war. He begins with the human things the soldiers carried with them. Letters from girlfriends, pocket knives, can openers, dog tags, candy, cigarettes, matches, sewing kits and canteens of water. There are photos of girlfriends and houses and cars back home. One boy-soldier carried a Bible and one night so tired opened the Bible and put his head on it as if a pillow and went to sleep.
Less than one percent of our 300 million people wear the uniform today. Without the draft we rely on those that volunteer. I wonder if we brought back the draft how long this war in Iraq and Afghanistan would last. But I want to salute all those who serve and all those veterans who have served.
Waving flags and slapping “Support our Troops” signs on cars is simply not enough. Most of us at home—except for those who sent their loved ones away—have not sacrificed one whit. Our lifestyles have changed little if any by this war.
Which leads me to Veteran’s Day 2009. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day November 11. This day marked the signed of the Armistice that ended World War I. Major hostilities ended the war at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. This is why November 11 was chosen as this time of remembering. During the ensuing years Armistice Day evolved under President Eisenhower to include all veterans of all our wars. He added the name “Veteran’s Day” in 1954.
We are told that 30% of those returning combat veterans, many having served two-four combat tours are in need of counseling for PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder. Many returnees will never be whole again.
Let us stop and this day and remember those that have sacrificed time, energy, years and sometimes lives for the rest of us. I keep thinking of that wonderful title, The Things They Carried. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for them to know that one of the things they carried and they found when they returned was an authentic gratitude for all these service men and women have done for all of us.
Joe Galloway’s article on this year’s Veteran’s Day is worth a read.