Friday, November 16, 2007

A Belated Tribute

Sunday was Veterans’ Day, a rather under-celebrated holiday. Falling on a weekend this year, it didn’t gain the periphery attention it does during the week when it causes banks to close and mail to stop. Stories and interviews all week on MPR have kept the holiday and the veterans themselves in the forefront of my mind. The lack of attention given to this day is shameful.

I’m not without guilt. When I taught writing, I had a writing assignment for Veterans’ Day. I had my students write a letter to a veteran they knew personally or just to a veteran in general. They were to give the letter to the person they knew, or I would personally deliver the generic ones to the local VFW. When I taught Sunday School, we colored flags and crosses for veterans and hung them on the wall outside the classroom. But now, it goes unmentioned in my classroom, in my entire school in fact. One of the stories from MPR gleaned mention in my lecture yesterday, but only because it was an appropriate example. But the fact that the entire school went without even a say-so is rather surprising.

We say the pledge once a week, Tuesdays as a norm, Thursdays when it was forgotten on Tuesday (yes, this has happened several times). Standing and/or reciting it is an option. An option I agree with, yet I secretly judge my students who don’t stand. I told my husband about this, and he made a wonderful point: the pledge is more than just a sign of respect for our nation (and arguably our government), it is an honor to the thousands, nay millions, of men and women who have fought for this nation in its 231 years. But even with this connection, no mention of Veterans’ Day before or after the pledge this week.

My father was a sergeant in the Army in Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers were sergeants in the Second World War, one in the Army and one in the Navy. My heart runs full of veteran blood. I donate money every few months to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (and not just because they send me return address stickers). I have a nephew in the Navy; a friend in the Marines, and a niece who at 17 just decided to join the Guard. I thank men and women I know have served; really being grateful and proud of them. Unlike my father’s tour of duty, these people are there by choice. Even if they enlisted for the money for college or a reason to get the hell out of here (wherever that may be), they knew there was a possibility they could go to war. THAT is an amazing act of bravery.

I hate this war we’re fighting in Iraq, killing so many people on so many days. I hate the Bush Administration with all of its lies, “compromises”, and ridiculously bad decisions. I hate the idea that people have to fight wars at all…can’t we just all get along? But I love veterans. People willing to risk their lives for others or for a cause are beyond brave, they’re heroes.

Despite that heroism, most people let Sunday slip by without so much as a whisper. If you haven’t lately, thank a veteran. Every day, pray for their safety.


Molly said...

I had two friends in Iraq, one of which lost a foot and nearly his life.

My father was a conscientious objector during Viet Nam. Ryan's father served. My grandfather could not serve in WWII for medical reasons. I'm glad he did not. I come from a family of pacifists. Veteran blood does not run in my veins.

My best friend's mother works at the Veteran's office in Green Bay. She often has anxiety because of how emotional her job can be. She helped my friend with the missing foot when he came home.

I do stand during the pledge, but I do not say the words out loud. I say most in my head, believe most in my head, in my heart, but I vehemently disagree with the "one nation, under God" aspect of the pledge and find it incredibly offensive that I'd be expected to spout that off.

I understand, but I'm disappointed to hear that you secretly judge those students that stand.

On the other hand, I secretly judge students who believe in creationism as opposed to evolution. So here I am, being a hypocrite.

I am proud to be an American.

I am not always proud of what our leader does. Rarely, in fact, and I hope the Republicans are ousted from the White House.

That's my weigh in. I do agree with you that Veteran's Day ought to have more attention and appreciation. As should many, many other professions--teaching, police officers, government. These are also jobs which society can roll their eyes at, any kind of authority. There's a kind of frustration when we don't take the time to reflect or have a deeper understanding of what the word "sacrifice" might mean. How we came to be where we are. Who helped us get here. Who we believe in.

I believe in you, E. :)

And Danno. And Jesse. (And I love that Danno now plays pool with his prosthetic... he was the one, at my wedding, who was dancing like a fool and drenched in sweat. He won't let that missing foot get him down. Crazy bastard.)

EWH said...

I judge the students who DON'T stand, not the ones that do...

Thanks for the thorough comment :-).

Anonymous said...

I called the vets in my life (2 grandpas, dad) and thanked them. It is important to me too.

Love Heather

Molly said...

That's what I meant. That you judge the ones that don't stand.

Boy, it's been a long week, yes?

Molly said...

PS: I'm kind of pleased at this, but everyone in my class stands for the pledge. There are only a few who say it, which is weird, but maybe they're like me, saying in my head, but anyway--everyone stands, hand on heart. Seems like a decent compromise. And we generally don't forget to do it each week here, which is also nice.