Veteran’s Day, 2005

In years past I have not given much thought to Veterans Day. I graduated from high school only a few months after the Vietnam-era draft was deactivated. I never served. My dad was too young for the Korean conflict, and too old for Vietnam. None of my grandfathers served in the military either. My father-in-law was in the Air Force, serving in the SAC all over the world, but I didn’t know about that until after my wife and I were married. I never had a reference point, you see; no concrete example of someone close who served and sacrificed. Until now. My son just last month returned from Afghanistan, and just two weeks ago returned to Oklahoma, a citizen. He has come back thinner, more sober, more focused, more a man. He has not said much about his time in Afghanistan. One time he told me over the phone from Afghanistan “Let me put it this way; I’ve had opportunity to fire my weapon.” That’s all he said. On another occasion, just last week, he noticed the desk-top photo on my laptop. He had given me a 512K thumb drive and there was one photo still on it. He even told me so. It was a rugged yet beautiful picture of a high-altitude valley somewhere near the Afghan-Pakistan border. You could see a small rock-built village in the background; almost around the bend. When he saw it he said “What are you doing with that on your desk-top? Take that off of there. That’s a bad place.” So I replaced it with a dusky sunset landscape of some place near Jalalabad. I think that is how he wants to remember it, as a sunset, a closed chapter in his past.

This Veteran’s Day has been different for me. I have a greater sense of what sacrifice means. Now I know personally that people’s lives are put on hold, changed forever, and yes, ended prematurely, for the sake of freedom. Moms and dads wait anxiously for good news, scanning the news, pouring over the maps, praying. You can think what you want about this “war”. It matters not to me what you think. This is not a political blog, and I am not going to debate that issue here; If you know a veteran, thank him for the sacrifice. If you don’t know a veteran, get to know one, and then thank him. Thank him for your freedom of speech. Thank him for your freedom to associate freely, to bear arms, to vote. Thank him for your freedom to worship, or not worship as you see fit. Then thank God for courageous young men.

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage, even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity and I certainly have not done so, but Christianity has done more. It has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living, and him who dies for the sake of dying, and it has held up ever since, above the European lances, the banner of the mystery of chivalry, the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death.” G. K. Chesterton Orthodoxy, quoted by Rush Limbaugh on November 11, 2005

Thank you, Isaac.
We love you, Dad and Mom

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.