Letter: How should we honor our veterans?
The words sound good — a day to honor veterans — but what does it mean to those who have never experienced personal danger from physical attack, much less living in the midst of war? How many of today’s Americans even know a member of the military? With all the clamor that surrounds every waking hour of today’s screaming world, what does it mean to be free?
Can those who have never lived in any other way know the absence of freedom, what it is to exist under complete supervision of others?
Most parents would give anything for their offspring. But how many are prepared to give their lives for those unknown to themselves? Who are these men and women who have volunteered to do just that, awakening every day, knowing they will be called upon when threatening force attacks?
They are veterans.
To honor their service requires comprehending something difficult to grasp. Yes, each of us knows someone who is struggling — to stay alive through chemo, to support a family or to simply make it through the day. Everyone is a veteran of life. But the military veteran, in addition to his or her own days and years, experiences something even larger — and it is on our behalf.
Our understanding clarifies when we pause for a few minutes to attempt a ”thank you.” It has been said that to appreciate another person, one needs to walk in his shoes. But learning how to accomplish that feat never happens as completely as needed.
Children grow up with the knowledge provided by their family, teachers, and the larger community. Parents model what their children will grow up to understand — or not — about what it means to be free, to be safe from harm from others. But who among us is prepared to give our life for those unknown to ourselves?
Answering that question touches upon what the veteran represents. In one sense, each of us is a veteran, but on Veterans Day we are prompted to look past ourselves, honoring the men and women who have faced on our behalf dangers larger than most of us want to imagine.
The best way to honor what they fought for will be to live together in a way that is worthy of our veterans’ contributions. This is America, land of the free — for you and for me. Thank you, veterans.
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