Some of you may be wondering why I didn't post my usual salute to Veterans' Day yesterday. I wanted to but for two things - Arden and I were traveling and I was sick. No worse time to be sick than when you're on the road. And no - I don't have Ebola. As far as I can tell I had food poisoning. Gotta stop eating in restaurants while traveling...
Veterans' Day is the one holiday each year that is for me and my fellow veterans. Sure, Independence Day is for me - it's for all Americans. Labor Day is for all Americans - even if it was created as a socio-economic tribute to the workers by labor unions, of which I have never been a member.
Christmas is to celebrate the birth of our Lord. New Years is just that. Memorial Day is not for all veterans, as some believe, but for those who sacrificed their lives in defense of our great nation. Presidents' Day is the day they chose to honor the birthdays of two of our greatest Presidents by combining their birthdays into one holiday that doesn't usually fall on either day.
Martin Luther King day honors Dr. King and is about freedom and civil rights. Columbus Day honors the founding of North America. And Thanksgiving is for all to give thanks for the blessings we have been given by our God and Creator.
Veterans' Day is for people like me - those who at some time in their lives put on the uniform of the United States military and spent some years doing what they were told to do in service to their fellow Americans. Some of us were soldiers, some were pilots, some were medics, some were sailors, others Marines and Coast Guard. But we all served our nation, our Commander(s)-in-Chief, and our fellow Americans.
The old saying "A veteran is someone who, at some point in his/her life, writes a blank check to "The people of the United States of America" in the amount of "Up to and including my life," didn't strike me as something that applied to me until a dear friend pointed it out. I didn't go into harm's way when I was in the Air Force - except maybe being in Germany in a time when the Red Army Faction was blowing up American targets and kidnapping and executing random US military personnel, because there were no wars going on at the time. I never saw combat. However, I was subject to go if and when it was necessary. And would have proudly accepted the call.
My son's mother was in the Air Force at the time as well. Together we had to sign paperwork that said if we were both ordered to duty in a war zone who would we leave our son with in the meantime. There was a single mother who lived in our apartment building, also active duty, who has to sign that same paperwork. Ever have to make a decision like that? (Chances are they wouldn't have made my wife and I both go and leave our son behind but we still had to make that designation.)
Everyone who joins the military makes sacrifices. They lose some of their freedoms - such as complete freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom to wear what they want, freedom to quit a job they just don't care for, etc. They are under the control of the government for the time they are in. The government tells them where they are going and what they are to do. And they can't say much about it without serious consequences.
Families of veterans sacrifice as well. They too are subject to the whims of the government. They must choose to follow their beloved service member to his/her assignment or be separated from him/her for the duration. And there are many assignments to which a spouse or loved one cannot follow.
Less than 0.5 percent of Americans serve in our armed forces. That's about 1.6 million out of 300,000,000 plus citizens. When you think about it that's not a lot of people to defend our nation and her people - particularly since we are involved in global affairs. It's a pretty big sacrifice. Winston Churchill said it best: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
So a day late and a dollar short, I want to offer a sincere thank you to my fellow veterans and your families for your sacrifice, your courage, and your honor. Together we stood and accepted the call of our nation. Together we stood, as the prophet himself did in Isaiah 6:8, and said to our God and our country: "Here am I. Send me."
Most of us would do it again in a minute if necessary. We are brothers and sisters in arms. We are the few who put country ahead of self. We are the 0.5 percent.