Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day, 2011

It's days like this that I really miss Numeric Life (Mike will remember her; the rest of you, see here and here if you don't know what I'm talking about). And since Mike ... and just about everyone else on the planet ... has already made a fuss about today being the date on which you can see later this morning that it's 11:11:11 on 11/11/11, I'm going to skip it.

I'm going to write, briefly, about Veterans' Day.

Originally, of course, it used to be called Armistice Day - the day on which, at 11:00 AM, the guns fell silent to end the First World War, otherwise known as "the war to end all wars." We all know how that worked out. In some countries, it's called Remembrance Day; the name was changed in the US to Veterans' Day after World War II to put aside a day to honor those who had served in the nation's armed services. We also have Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday in May, which honors those killed in military service.

As President Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, "it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."

At the risk of appearing to toot my own horn, I am a veteran of 23 years in the Air Force. During all that time, though, I never heard a shot fired in anger. I served in the last years of the Vietnam War, but never in the actual war zone. When we sent troops to Grenada, I was a staff officer supporting the folks we deployed. When we sent troops to oust Manuel Noriega from Panama, I was serving in Europe. When the first Persian Gulf war was fought, I was flying a desk in the Pentagon.

So my military service, while of average length and honorable character, was relatively safe and comfortable. I did not suffer wounds or pay the ultimate price for decisions made by those in positions of greater leadership. Many, many others did.

And that's why we need both holidays: Memorial Day to honor those who gave their lives, and Veterans' Day to honor those who answered the country's call.

My father is one of the dwindling number of veterans of World War II, in which he served in the Army Air Corps in Europe as a combat photographer. He earned his Purple Heart not when he was wounded by the enemy, but when one of the crew members in his B-24 panicked when the aircraft was hit by flak and stepped on the back of Dad's head as he lay on the floor, taking photographs of the ground ... knocking out his front teeth. The aircraft, although damaged, made it home.

My brothers are also veterans - Mark retired from the Navy as a warrant officer, and Paul served in the Army. We tried to get our sister to join the Marines to round things out, but she wouldn't do it. My older son served in the Air Force, and is still a Reservist.

And so, on this Veterans' Day, I salute all my friends with whom I served across my 23 years, and all the people now on duty with whom I work in the Five-Sided-Squirrel-Cage on the Potomac. You're doing the honorable thing, and the nation - and I - appreciate it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when Cartoon Saturday returns.



Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Happy Veterans Day Bill.
Thank you.

Chrissy said...

Happy Veterans day!!

Mike said...

You could have just told your sister that you didn't like her.

Duckbutt said...

I missed 11:11:11 AM; but may have another shot at 11:11:11 PM. I'm in CST now.

Thanks to you for having served Bilbo!

Duckbutt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
eViL pOp TaRt said...

You served your country honorably and well. Thank you for doing so, Bilbo!