Tomorrow is a national holiday in America. It has been celebrated on November 11th since the year 1919. In the beginning it was called Armistice Day, but in 1954 it was changed to Veterans Day. Living in London at this time of year you can’t turn a corner without seeing someone wearing a Red Poppy in honor of Remembrance Day which is also recognized on 11/11. Though this is the first time I have had to write about the holiday, it has had meaningful significance to me for many years.
I have a great fondness for the military. It seems strange to say that given the fact that I abhor conflict of any kind. I don’t even like to get in a disagreement with anyone and will usually defer to others just to avoid it. I’m always going on about Love and Peace, not War and Peace. However, deep down I appreciate my freedom. And that saying, “Freedom isn’t free” rings true to me. It is a fact of life that one of the things that protects our freedom is the military.
In my own life I have had family members serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. My grandfather, my uncle, my cousins, my brother and even my son have all worn a United States uniform to serve our country. Though not in the military, I have shared the story about my father who was a fireman. I think that this kind of life, not just wearing a uniform, but sacrificing their own lives to save another’s, must be a calling. The way being a nurse, teacher or someone in the religious orders is a calling. When someone has a “calling” to a vocation, it isn’t normally an external drive, as in making money etc. However, it is the internal drive that seems to motivate them. Which is why honoring these people is so important. It lends credence and significance for their devotion to the cause.
Though I didn’t want my son to go into the military, I suppose it was inevitable. My youngest brother is and always has been a mentor to my son. He was even best man at my son’s wedding. My brother served in the Army in the Ranger Regiment and was deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11. “Operation Enduring Freedom” it said on the Department of Defense letter that was sent to me (as I was his next of kin). Almost ten years later my son, my baby, was in Afghanistan serving in the Army as well. He was also with the Rangers, though now in the 101st Airborne. He jumps out of airplanes!!! My grey hair can prove it! I am certainly proud, as any parent is of any achievements their children make. But I am also scared and worried as any mother of a child (even if an adult child) would be when they are in a dangerous job. However what keeps me going is my faith and also the fact that I know my son is happy. He has done well in his job and is very respected. He is making a difference in the world doing his part to keep us safe.
I am grateful our country has a day to honor those who have given their time and devotion to protecting its citizens. Sure there are critics, and many people feel there should be this change or that. But there is an underlying sense of security that we are blessed to have knowing that a Hitler type person isn’t going to come rolling through our streets taking away our liberties. When my Hubby and I went to Normandy in France and toured around the area once occupied by the Germans during WWII we saw the visible scars that remain. Yet, the French there are still so appreciative for what the Allied troops did to free them from the Nazis. When we visited Auschwitz it was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had. To see the remnants of those horrors made me pray that it would never ever happen again. But this is why we need our military, strong and ready, to circumvent a human disaster such as that.
Next week my son will be involved in another important military ceremony in which I will attend. I already have tears in my eyes thinking about it. No matter how many events similar to this I have attended , I still get emotional. Then I think about how important their families are to these service men and women. My son has a lovely wife who has been with him through it all from training to the deployments. She has experienced the lack of contact for weeks, the late night calls that were too brief, and of course the worries about when she would hear from him again. But she is his rock and like all military families, the loved ones also sacrifice.
She and my son were born and raised in Los Angeles. A place where people worship Hollywood heroes with animated 3D capes. Where “Showtime” Sports heroes are given parades for their bravery at winning trophies. Where reality tv show heroes are showered with massive sums of money for their sacrifice of showing up at an opening of a new nightclub. However it is the real heroes, the ones without capes or parades with money pouring down like confetti, who are the ones we honor this day. These heroes wear dog tags. They have their names, social security number, blood type and religious affiliation engraved on them. But what is engraved on my heart is how much I love and appreciate my son, my family that has served, and all the military personnel and their support systems at home.
God bless America!
My Uncle Joe (Navy) with my dad and their mom, my Grandma Geraghty (from Sligo)