Two score and four years ago, my uncle returned from the Vietnam War to being ‘cursed, ridiculed’ and possibly assaulted because we blamed the soldiers for our government’s execution of foreign policy. And I do mean ‘our’ government, since, for better or worse, our government is of, by and for the people. We did this. There is no one else we can blame.
In the intervening decades until his retirement in 1998, he returned from other wars to a very different homecoming. For that, I’m eternally grateful. By the time he returned from both Gulf Wars, I was no longer in the second grade where I was oblivious and sheltered from world events, but during a time when I had children of my own in grade school whom I wanted safe and sound.
For his service and sacrifice, he has my gratitude. As do all his contemporary veterans.
War is an unpleasant business. Some wars are necessary; some are not. Regardless, it is terrible to send our sons and daughters to kill or be killed. But, until we learn not to practice war anymore, I’m happy that America has learned not to blame those sent for being sent.
This year, and today specifically, marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. For as long as I have been alive, each December 7th brought me the voice of then President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaiming this day to be “a date which will live in infamy.” And so it has. Even one of my favorite films immortalizes for future generations: Tora! Tora! Tora! (which I consider to be fairly historically accurate). The more dramatic and entertaining Pearl Harbor released in 2001 gets the blood surging, but does not satisfy me need to ‘real life’ accuracy. Contrived romantic entanglements pale before the gritty details and courage our soldiers exhibited under fire.
Yesterday, while waiting for my bagel to toast at the lobby coffee shop, I picked up a free copy of the winter edition of ‘Our Daily Bread.’ Even though I follow them on Twitter, I often miss their daily tweets because they occur so early in the morning or get lost in the other Twitter clutter. Normally, I wouldn’t have bothered beyond reading the entry for yesterday and returning it to the stack for someone else to benefit form its wisdom. But after the discouraging news I received Monday about my husband’s health, I am seeking support and encouragement at every turn. Now, I have a daily reminder on my desk to connect me to hope and to encourage me to live in faith with God’s Will.
When a US Navy vessel arrives or departs from the military bases in Pearl Harbor, the crew of that ship lines up in dress uniform. They stand at attention at arm’s length on the outer edges of the deck, in salute to the soldiers, sailors, and civilians who died on December 7, 1941. It is a stirring sight, and participants often list it among the most memorable moments of their military career.
Even for spectators on shore, the salute triggers an incredible emotional connection, but especially between the servants of today and the servants of yesterday. It grants nobility to the work of today’s sailor, while giving dignity to the sacrifice of those from the past.
On a serene Sunday morning 70 years ago, the skies above Pearl Harbor were darkened by the bombs of Japanese forces in a surprise attack that tested the resilience of our Armed Forces and the will of our Nation. As explosions sounded and battleships burned, brave service members fought back fiercely with everything they could find. Unbeknownst to these selfless individuals, the sacrifices endured on that infamous day would galvanize America and come to symbolize the mettle of a generation.
In the wake of the bombing of our harbor and the crippling of our Pacific Fleet, there were those who declared the United States had been reduced to a third-class power. But rather than break the spirit of our Nation, the attack brought Americans together and fortified our resolve. Patriots across our country answered the call to defend our way of life at home and abroad. They crossed oceans and stormed beaches, freeing millions from the grip of tyranny and proving that our military is the greatest force for liberty and security the world has ever known. On the home front, dedicated civilians supported the war effort by repairing wrecked battleships, working in factories, and joining civilian defense organizations to help with salvage programs and plant Victory gardens. At this time of great strife, we reminded the world there is no challenge we cannot meet; there is no challenge we cannot overcome.
On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack and pay tribute to the heroes whose courage ensured our Nation would recover from this vicious blow. Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II. As a Nation, we look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms.
I wish to honor and humbly thank all our veterans, past, present and future, for their sacrifice, courage and service in the United States Armed Forces, securing freedom and justice for all.
I find it fitting to publish my eleventh post in my Thirty Days of Thankfulness series at exactly the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year of the twenty-first century also known as Veterans Day. As noted in an excellent post by a fellow blogger (ProSe), in less than three years we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, misnamed ‘the War to End All Wars.’ If you ever get a chance to visit the Liberty Memorial, a memorial to the fallen soldiers of WWI, in Kansas City, Missouri, I highly recommend you make a visit to the National World War I museum housed beneath the memorial. Our modern day Veterans Day grew out of Armistice Day which commemorated the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany, ending World War I, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
That Special Veteran in My Life
I am especially thankful for my uncle and his service in the United States Air Force. Thanks to his various deployments around the United States (and the world), I got to see most of the lower forty-eight states before I turned sixteen. Nearly all our family vacations ventured to various Air Force bases in Montana, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and Colorado. I remember when he was deployed to Thailand during the Vietnam War. I caught pneumonia when we visited Ron in Panama City, Florida, because it actually snowed in Florida that year and was warmer back in Kansas and my mom didn’t think we would need any heavy winter clothes. I also remember corresponding electronically with him while at college in 1984 via the university’s Digital Equipment CorporationVAX while he was deployed to Aviano, Italy, years before most of the world even dreamed about the Internet or e-mail or instant messaging or text messaging. I received Christmas cards from all over the world, including Saudi Arabia before the first Gulf War. I worried about him then and during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I attended his retirement celebration held at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Even though Ron wasn’t a pilot, I grew up wanting to be a jet fighter pilot or an astronaut. I didn’t find out until my teens that women weren’t allowed to do the former (because it involved combat) and the latter involved way more science than I wanted to tackle then, although the math would have appealed.
For the last dozen years, Ron has enjoyed his retirement as a watercolor artist, a writer and a grandfather to five grand children with a sixth on the way (two girls and twin boys recently born to his son Wendell and his wife Kristin; as well as a girl from his son Eric and his wife Cayla, who is expecting their second child early next year). When he’s not painting or writing or bouncing grandchildren on his knee, he reads much more than I do. We discuss and debate shared reads and flip books each other’s way either by media mail postal rate or electronically via our Nook Colors. When we actually get together for a family visit, I love to hear his stories about his father Ralph’s service during WWII and after as well as his own adventures around the world.
Yesterday, in his daily e-mail to family and friends, he remembered how much tougher military personnel have it today than when he was on active duty. Ron did two years of nastiness (amid eleven years of overseas duty) out of his thirty year military career. Soldiers today will spend half of their enlistment or career getting shot at.