Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Veteran's Essay

My Friend Dan McCormick is a vet. Every year he writes a perspective on being a vet and he sends it out on Veterans Day.  His essay this year is particularily interesting and I have permission to re-post it.

Veterans Day

On this day set aside to commemorate those that have served in the military on behalf of our country I am struck by the fact that we continuously seem to be in varying states of threats.  Historically, and almost continually since the Revolutionary War, we have been edging out of, entering in to or actively engaged in conflict.  Maybe its because, as the most powerful and envied nation in the world, we are like the smart kid in school and fulfill some global need to be tested.

With 100s of thousands of new refugees flooding into Europe, Russia again engaging in at least the start of a modern cold war and ISIS, there appears to be no end to our plight.  That said, if not us then who and if not now then when?

On this day, it’s not the conflict that matters; it’s the fact that when one puts on the uniform and goes into war its all of a sudden personal.  Its not the Politian’s who have never served but talk of our military might.  It’s not the policy of some administration that has as its primary agenda keeping themselves or a particular party in office.  It’s the individuals, families and friends that are experiencing conflict first hand that becomes the fodder for all the loud cannons.

This, as they say, is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where the human damage is done.  This is where we, as a people, suffer the most.  Its those that go into conflict trusting that our might is right and that God is on our side that wind up with burdens and scars to bear; forever.

It’s the continuous strain of dealing with PTSD.  It’s the residual effects of Agent Orange.  It’s the loss of time with love ones and family.  It’s not being there when a baby is born.  It’s the moments of aloofness when one is not in the present as their thoughts drift to a bad time in a foreign land triggered by a seemingly innocuous remark, smell, sight or sound. It is the remembrance of war.

We also hope that someday humankind will realize that we are all culturally unique and as such designed to remain in silos with walls of religion, culture, history and geography.   There probably will never be a global community melting pot.  The only thing we all have in common is being human.   

As predicted by global thinkers in the 1980’s as cultures become more aware of the divide between the have’s and the have not’s, conflict will ensue.  With social media, smart phones and more access to the internet, the differences of a country with advantages and one that is underdeveloped is more evident, more visible and with media emphasis, more pronounced.

This causes resentment among many factions.  This resentment today is manifested in armed conflict and threats of destruction.  We in America are not presented as a pinnacle for aspiration to which other wish to rise, rather as a target of resentment that others wish to tear down to their level.

As long as there is a broad gap economically and socially between cultures, those that are aware will attempt to lessen that divide through conflict.  It’s like kids, or even dogs, that always seem to want what the other has.

For this reason, as long as we have a high economic standard of living, we will be on the defensive.  There is not enough resources on the plant to bring all cultures, countries and peoples to the American standard of living.  Until our economy collapse, we will always be envied, resented and under attack.  It’s simply the price we pay for who we are.

For this reason, and others, there will always be veterans.  Their commitment and role in world order is appreciated.  They are the epitome of the quote victory at all cost.  When a veteran signs up they are committing to “all cost”.   

Today, it almost feels like we are celebrating Veteran’s Day every day.  New programs highlight troops and give shouts to those in service.  CNN shows a father surprising his 3rd grader in class as he returns from home.  There seems to be a veteran salute at ever sporting event.  PGA Tour events have a soldier, sailor or airman tending the flag on the 17th hole of nearly every tournament.  One almost begins to feel that rather than the somber thank you for your service that we all owe is being over shadowed by over the top media. It seems to be the thing to do.

We learn just today the Department of Defense has spent more that $10.4 million on marketing contracts with teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS on patriotic displays.  Much of this “patriotic marketing” was for time for military displays at games.  The military says that such displays assist in recruitment and thanks troops for service.  Some critics argue that it sets a tone that military action, no mater what, is right and just.  In any event constant praise of our military seems to reduces the somber and relevant sprit of sincere appreciation and thanks to veterans for all they risk and do.  It doesn’t seem right that a trained solider is flag caddy for a day.  To me, it’s demeaning.

On this “Official” non-paid day of remembrance of our military and those that serve and have served, we simply say thank you.  We all appreciate you.  We know of your sacrifice and risk.  We know we would not be here without you and we know you gave us a gift as precious as our very lives.  Thank you Vet!

Dan H. McCormick
Former 1st Lt. 199th Light Infantry Brigade

Vietnam 1969

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