Monday, November 12, 2007

My Veteran's Day

Veteran’s Day was very special for me this year. This marks the first year that I was part of a ceremony and not just a member of the audience. On Friday I was my godson’s guest at his middle school Veteran’s Day assembly. The band played patriotic songs, the choir sang and the guests of honor were Pearl Harbor survivors and their spouses -- in some cases just their spouses. Retired Lt. Col. David Moffat of the Army Air Corps, the leader of the Central Arkansas Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, was the guest speaker. In his speech he relayed his experiences and observations of that day, December 7th, 1941, to all the students, faculty and guests attending the ceremony.

But before LTC (ret) Moffat spoke, those students who brought a guest veteran with them paraded out into the audience, gathered up their guest, escorted them to the front of the auditorium and introduced them. I was very proud to be my godson’s guest and to stand beside him as he introduced me. He’s an incredible kid and he is an important part of my life. I could not imagine my life without him in it.

At one point during the program, everyone in the audience who had a relative or friend currently deployed was asked to stand. When I turned to see who was standing, I was amazed at the number of middle school students who were no longer in their seats. At least 50 or 60 kids were on their feet. Simultaneously I heard a collective gasp from those who weren’t standing. The full reality of the growing affects, the ever expanding reach this war has had on our community struck the audience like a cold splash of water to the face.

During the school assembly, I was privileged to sit by a man who somehow miraculously survived D-Day and the assault on the beaches of Normandy. Incredibly, there were two Normandy survivors in the audience. What are the odds of two Normandy survivors being in that small audience on that day?

Along with them were several WWII survivors, numerous Vietnam Veterans, one of whom had received three purple hearts, and also Korean War Veterans. All branches of service were represented. It was an honor to count myself among the Veterans in that crowd, many of whom narrowly escaped death, and some who most assuredly performed laudable acts. Though they are certainly worthy of commendation, few sing their own praises. That is the purpose of these Veteran's Day ceremonies -- to honor them.

A recurring theme I have noticed among the veteran population is that very few veterans boast about their war experiences. In fact most feel that what they did was not extraordinary at all, that they were simply "Doing their job." The only thing they ask for is a simple, “Thank you.”

But one remark is frequently avowed by veterans who have worked in hostile, combat regions, areas which are often crawling with press representatives from all over the world. Most agree that, "There's a lot of good going on over there that you don’t see in the news.” And it’s true. My unit performed many humanitarian missions that were never reported by the press. There are countless instances of compassionate and charitable deeds that go unreported. They are not sensational and therefore, not newsworthy.

Veteran’s Day ceremonies were held all over the nation. And on Sunday, I observed another ceremony held by the local chapter of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and other organizations in my community. Wreaths were presented, a bell was rung and a new monument was unveiled to honor those fallen in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Thankfully only two names are inscribed thus far, but there is space for more to be chiseled in if necessary. We can only hope and pray that space remains blank.

Thursday, November 01, 2007