When the peace treaty is signed, the war isn't over for the veterans, or the family. It's just starting. - Karl Marlantes
But this Veterans Day, I believe we should do more than sing the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we are treating our veterans in the present. - Nick Lampson
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields - excerpt from “In Flanders Fields” - John McCrae
I was intrigued last week when businessman and philanthropist Brett Wilson was in the news with a request for businesses to delay putting up Christmas decorations until we have had time to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us – the veterans who have served in past conflicts and those who serve in the present.
I was equally intrigued when Angela Kokott responded with a piece where she suggests that this may be inappropriate of Mr. Wilson, closing her opinion piece with “Our veterans fought for all sorts of freedoms including free enterprise.”
While Ms. Kokott may have a point, I would like to offer a counterpoint.
Many people who believe in free enterprise will exercise that freedom on the very day when we should be honoring our veterans. Those same people will exercise that freedom every day of the year (which is their right) and will never take the time to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and whose families continued to pay the ultimate sacrifice for many years afterward.
And while I can’t read Mr. Wilson’s mind, I believe that is the point he is trying to make. As a successful businessman, he doesn’t need to be lectured by anyone about free enterprise. However, as someone who is committed to honoring veterans, he also recognizes that when we defer honoring vets to “another day”, that deferral gets deferred again …. and again … and again … until we don’t even bother.
Imagine this scenario.
You’re sitting in a coffee shop. Your day is a busy day – you’re meeting friends to go shopping later and while waiting, you get incensed over the price of your latte and spend an hour complaining about it on social media. It may or may not be November 11th.
You see a man or woman typing a few things hurriedly on a laptop and you saunter over and ask if they are on social media also.
“No”, they reply, “I’m getting ready to go overseas and I’m writing down a few things for my family to take care of while I’m gone.”
While you’re busy spending your time with what you think is important, I’m going to put my life on the line so that you may continue to do “whatever” you think you are entitled to or what you think is important. My action requires more courage than the courage you summoned to complain about your latte but I do it because I am called to stand up for the rights and freedoms of you and your family (people I will never know) and so I answered the call. If I come back, I may be so mentally or physically scarred that I may be a burden on my family and others for the rest of my Life. I may be financially destitute, unable to secure honest work to take care of my family while attempting to survive on the pittance the government I fought for offers me. I may even take my Life in the process, given that suicide rates are much higher for returning vets than for many other groups. Despite all of this, I don’t do it for the glory of it. I do it because it is the right thing to do. Meanwhile, your Life will continue on, oblivious to the struggles that my family and I may experience as a result of my action. I’m sorry – I’m rambling. What is the issue with your latte?
Men and women in the Armed Services and as First Responders put their Life and the lives of their family at risk every day so that we are free to live the Life we choose.
Many believe that they serve so that we can do whatever we want as a result of the freedom for which so high a price has been paid.
But if that is true, then you would have no problem looking a veteran straight in the eye and saying “Because of your sacrifice, I am able to do ____________ with or in my Life.”
What you fill in the blanks better be worth it, otherwise you have missed the point of the ultimate sacrifice.
It was so that you could make yourself, your family, your community, your nation and the world significantly better, doing things that matter.
If you can’t fill in the blank with something meaningful or impactful, you are telling veterans that the ultimate sacrifice that they offered up was for nothing and that you don’t give a damn about what they gave up for you.
It is also important to never forget why their sacrifice was necessary, lest we or our children be forced to make the same sacrifice for the same reason, making the original sacrifice a waste of a valuable learning opportunity.
Honoring the sacrifice of others requires more than attending services on November 11th as we remember those who have fallen, those who were lost, those who were wounded and their families.
We need to honor them every day with tangible, measurable acts of gratitude and service.
They made a sacrifice to honor us.
What are we doing to honor them?
In service and servanthood, lest we forget.
In recognition and gratitude for the many I know who have served, including my father, Harry Tucker (Royal Canadian Navy), former father-in-law Robert Johnston (Colonel – USAF, deceased), John Larsen (Rocky Mountain Rangers), Vince Fowler, Glen Squires, Wesley Pierce, Kevin Cullis, Sandra Squirrel-Lear, Kareen Tucker (USMC) and the many other friends and family that I know who served and the hundreds of thousands whom I will never know who made personal sacrifices so that I and we can experience the Gifts that we are blessed to experience.
On another note, this photo is circulating around the web these days.
I think this is am amazing photo.
What do you think?
Does their sacrifice mean anything to you?
How do you honor it and them?
When you buy a poppy, don’t just drop a coin in the can and move on.
If a veteran is present, ask them about their story, listen intently and then thank them for their service.
Addendum – Frustrations Expressed - November 9, 2015
A great friend of mine whose father, a policeman, was killed in the line of duty reached out to me today after reading my blog. Here is how my friend expressed her frustration via SMS (shared with her permission – click on image for larger version):
I think her frustrations are very fair and deserve an answer.
What do you think?