In recent years, say the last ten or so, Veterans Day has a bit more meaning to me personally than when I was younger. Some might say the nation’s appreciation… that’s the wrong word… perception… no that’s still off… maybe say, placement… of veterans has changed. But as I struggled to find the right word or phrase to describe what has changed in society, I look at what has changed with me over those same years.
Frankly, I’m not a young guy. Wasn’t ten years ago and certainly am not now. And as the old guy says, with age one gains perspective. So that’s what I have – perspective. My perspective as a veteran is just that – “a” perspective. Applied to the study of military history, it is not a “better” or “unique” perspective. Just “a” perspective that is derived from experiences. One might dismiss such from a purely analytical position. But everyone has baggage. What matters is what you can do and chose to do with it.
And with history mentioned, I’ll offer that as the reason for the changes with respect to Veterans Day in my personal view. You see, I’m now able to look back at my service in the context of history – things that happened while I was in the service and specifically events… historical events… in which I participated. Let me not bore you with my war stories (I’ll save that for when you are at the bar and paying for the drinks!). Instead, what I marvel at is having “seen” history being made. Ten, fifteen, and twenty years later, those events show up in the history books. While I am not, and cannot be, a historian of those events (as a participant, I refuse to believe my view is impartial… yet hope for a later generation of impartial, professional historians to get it right), I can appreciate the events in which I played a part. Some day a historian will call to ask about “Operation ….” or “your time in ….” and I shall present to them my well maintained personal files that detail my part in those larger events. Small part, but a part.
As a historian, of sorts, consider the manner in which I approach such events that I had witness to. Then let me use that framework in relation to veterans of past generations as a purchase to examine how they viewed the events which marked their service. From such a stance, there is relief across what was open landscape.
“In our youth our hearts were touched by fire” said Oliver Wendell Holmes. I think that is true of any veteran of any generation. Some by large fires. Others by small fires. And war is not the only sort of fire that burns in such a way.
Please take some time today and reflect on this Veterans Day. Thank a veteran. And as a veteran, I will say, “Thank you for your support.”