Today is a day to remember. A day to remember those who served their country in uniform and especially to memorialize those who died in the service of their country. In my family, I have nephews and nieces whose fathers served in the military. I have two great nephews who served in the military overseas, including one who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan. All of those survived their tours of duty.
My maternal great grandfather served with the Vermont 14th Regiment in the Civil War and was in the middle of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge to repel Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, turning the tide of the war. My paternal grandfather served in Europe with the American Expeditionary Force during WWI, and also served during WWII and Korea with the Army, both times with the Artillery.
My Uncle Phil served with the Navy in WWII and was killed in a plane crash while training other young men to fly. He was only 24 and had just gotten married 3 weeks before. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
All these deserve recognition for their service. However, it is wise for us to remember others, such as my Dad. When a large portion of his generation served, he could not. He had such bad eyesight that he was classified as 4-F and was unable to serve. He had to stand by and watch as his father served, as many of his friends and coworkers served, as his own brother-in-law served. I know he would have wanted to serve, but a physical condition prevented it.
I can’t imagine how it must have felt, all those years on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, 4th of July, watching the ceremonies, the parades, the tributes to veterans knowing he had not served in uniform. He served his family, raising us 5 kids to be responsible adults. He served his community by supporting education, being a trusted and appreciated employee of a local company, and being a regular blood donor. And he served his country be voting and supporting candidates that he felt were good leaders.
In all of our remembering let us not forget those who would have served if they had just had the chance. Remember that those who served took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States—to defend us so that the “inalienable rights” and other freedoms we have in America could be preserved.
And remember when others talk strategically about war, that those troops are not just numbers on a page, but real-life flesh and blood people putting their lives on the line. Don’t ever forget that. Don’t urge rushing into war, may it be the last result. As I walked through Arlington with all of its graves, and I saw a group of teenagers nearby, my prayer was “keep them safe from those who are too eager to go to war and toss their lives aside.”