I have probably thought more about this article than just about any other article that I have written, and I still am not exactly sure what I want to say so I will start with a little education and see where I end up.
For those who may not know exactly where Veterans Day comes from or why we honor it, let me explain it for you. The original holiday was designed to honor those who had died in WWI and was celebrated on November 11 in honor of when the Armistice with Germany went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Armistice Day is still celebrated in other countries, and is also referred to as Remembrance Day in places like Canada and the UK.
After WWII a movement was started by a veteran named Raymond Weeks who thought the holiday should celebrate all veterans, and not just those who died in WWI. In 1954 the Veterans Day that we know was officially established to honor all veterans who have served this great nation. Just to be clear, Memorial Day is to honor those who died in service to the country, while Veterans Day is to celebrate ALL who served.
I guess maybe that is the message I want to focus on is that this is a celebration of people. Many people have played many different roles in multiple different wars in the last century.
We are often quick to recognize those who died or performed heroic acts, and rightfully so because they made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom and the freedom of others. They deserve our utmost gratitude and adulation for their actions, and I will never tire of hearing their stories and honoring their example in any way that I can.
It is also important to recognize those whose contributions may easily get overlooked. Being the avgeek that I am I think of people like Edgar Schmued, the German-born designer of the P-51 Mustang that had a huge impact on the air war and directly impacted the final outcome of the war.
I think of my Grandma who served in the Navy as a clerk in the Brooklyn Shipyard ensuring that parts were getting to where they needed to be.
I think of my friend, and fellow Airman, Joe Kaelin who comes from a family of military members that have served for over 70 years including 32 years consecutively.
I think of my dad who served in the Army in both tanks and helicopters; which ultimately inspired my love of airplanes and my own military service.
I think of standing on the yellow footprints at MCRD San Diego 11 years ago and ultimately crossing the parade deck with 214 other young men. Sadly, I have little contact with many of them now but it is not unreasonable to think some of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice, or at least been wounded defending our freedom.
I think of the young men and women I had the opportunity to support last year in Afghanistan bringing them valuable supplies, or bringing them injured back to a hospital where they could receive the care they needed.
You see there really are no words to describe exactly how I feel about this day. It is one of those things that you can’t really describe unless you have experienced it yourself. There are so many amazing people who fulfilled their duty in whatever way they were asked that makes it possible for all of us to live our lives the way we want to.
The sacrifices made by each of us as individuals varies dramatically depending upon the era in which we served, and the missions which we were called to perform. But, no matter what those sacrifices were we accepted them willingly and performed at our best to ensure that those around us could return home safely, and if that wasn’t possible that at least their sacrifice would mean something in defending the freedoms of those they were fighting for.
It is one of the great honors of my life to serve with amazing men and women who have sacrificed so much for people they don’t even know.
Veterans Day is a special day for me because it helps me to take a second to stop and think about the legacy that I am leaving behind. We military members have been entrusted with a very solemn legacy that means so much to so many people and it is important to stop and think about that sometimes. The most important part of that legacy is the people themselves who sacrificed so much and asked for absolutely nothing in return.
I would encourage you to seek out those that you may know that have served, or are currently serving. Maybe it is a friend, family member, or coworker. Take a moment on this day to thank them, and more importantly ask them about their story. For those who are capable of sharing, ensuring that legacy lives on can be one of the greatest expressions of gratitude that they will ever receive.
I would love to hear their stories in the comments below, or through any other means you deem appropriate. As I said before, keeping their story alive is one of the greatest honors we can give them so please help me to do that. Thank you for your support.