One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.
Today is 11/11, and a holiday here in the United States.
Much has been made of this numeric combination. One of my favorites is that, according to one friend of mine, randomly noticing these numbers on a digital clock is the result of an attempted contact from alien species from outer space.
In a more down-to-Earth interpretation, for many who follow the Teutonic and Norse traditions, 11/11 is Einherjar, commemorating the nation’s fallen heroes and the 432,000 spirit warriors who guard Valhalla.
Was it only coincidence, then, that this was the date chosen as Armistice Day at the end of World War I? It is still celebrated annually as Veterans’ Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada and Britain. On that first commemoration, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, everyone promised that never again would such a brutal, costly war tear the world apart.
Everyone promised to remember.
In the United States, unlike our Memorial Day in May, Veteran’s Day is not only about those who have given their lives in battle. It is for the recognition of every man and woman who has served as guardians of our country, deceased or surviving, and the many sacrifices that such commitment entails.
It is a day to pause in the hurly burly of our “normal” lives and take note of all who have served the honorable duty of protection of their country and homeland. May your efforts never again be squandered in the service of corruption and greed (for, alas, this has happened all too often in the last 50 years).
However – taking a cue from the opinion of my father, the actual O.W.L. whose daughter I am, and who retired from a distinguished lifelong military career as a full colonel in the Army Infantry, let us not merely intone the clichéd “Thank you for your service,” as if that evens up the debt we owe.
And for Goddess’ sake, let us make sure that our veterans are not only remembered in election years and on holidays.
As long as one vet lives in a cardboard box somewhere, we have not done our duty to them.
As long as one service woman or man cannot get the quality health care they need, because the Veterans Administration’s funds have been quietly slashed, even while politicians spout their empty patriotic platitudes; and as long as those who still work for the VA are bone weary from making do with understaffed personnel and junk materials, our “thank you for your service” is an insult.
As long as one soldier remains in harm’s way in our failed military adventures overseas, yanked from family to be deployed over and over because the civilian world has long forgotten that these insane wars are still dragging on with no coherent purpose, and all for crap pay, invisible status, and substandard housing, we dishonor them.
Instead, here is my wish:
That your contribution is in some manner helping to create a world where such duties are no longer needed; where tolerance, liberty, and peace are more important than territory, control, and domination. (You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one).
Meanwhile I offer my deep gratitude to you, who have and continue to serve your country. Thank you for your valor, your sacrifice, and your loyalty. May your honor never again be betrayed by the callous liars and self-serving crooks who, for now, command you.
May we all, from this day forward, dedicate ourselves to making this so.
I have fought when others feared to serve.
I have gone where others failed to go.
I’ve lost friends in war and strife,
Who valued Duty more than love of life.
I have shared the comradeship of pain.
I have searched the lands for men that we have lost.
I have sons who served this land of liberty,
Who would fight to see that other stricken lands are free.
I have seen the weak forsake humanity.
I have heard the traitors praise our enemy.
I’ve seen challenged men become even bolder,
I’ve seen the Duty, Honor, Sacrifice of the Soldier.
Now I understand the meaning of our lives,
The loss of comrades not so very long ago.
So to you who have answered duty’s siren call,
May God bless you my son, may God bless you all.