A Veteran’s Perspective on Veterans Day
The powerful and iconic courtroom scene in the movie A Few Good Men, holds all the allure and pagentry of cinema. Political and social interpretations aside, the courtroom speech had one nugget, one allegory for me, as a veteran, the simple yet telling analogy of walls. “We live in a world with walls”, Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, tells us. Those walls need defending.
It is an unfortunate circumstance the world we live in demands us to build “walls.”Physical, mental, cultural, societal walls lines on maps, division of thought and world view. As long as we must build these cultural and political “walls” we will need men and women to defend them. Of that Colonel Jessep was correct.
I have stood on those walls. Many others, both before and after me, have and will occupy those walls. The positions are filled as you read this, our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and grandchildren fill them now. Will fill them in the future.
The future is an important point. The decisions we make, the culture we develop, the world we forge right this very moment we will pass on. What we think worthy today we will not defend, our children will. The wall I guarded was not of my making, but made by those before me. Wars rarely happen in a single generation. They are born of ignorance, greed, mistrust and countless other circumstances over long periods of time.
From atop the walls we build we can see our progress or conversely our failures. The men and women on those walls cannot change the world by being there. They defend what we think worthy. Only those not on the wall, the ones who build them can lower them, move them, destroy them. Only we here at home can only influence the ultimate outcome.
I feel empathy for the service members on duty away from home protecting what we declare important. I also feel pride. When it was my turn to guard those walls, I was honored. Honored to be considered good enough to protect all that we cherish. Honored to stand along side of my fellow soldiers and leaders. Leaders and commrads I learned to trust, to love and to follow down the barrel of a cannon if asked. One of the pinnacles of my life was when I realized I was good enough to be a part of a wall constructed of honor, courage and valor, each brick the sacrifice of millions before me. I guarded a wall I felt encircled all I love and held dear and the very principles of life my then young life. A wall that stretchesd back to the seventeen hundreds with many generations in between and many generations to come. A wall to defend my country.
So as you think of the men and women in the service this Veterans Day don’t do so with sympathy. Be happy for them. They are honored to be the ones to stand on the walls we as a society build. It is with pride that I and my fellow soldiers made the sacrifices asked. It is with pride that those sacrifices are made today.
If you want to do something for our service men and women, it is simple. Raise your flag. Put a light on it so it can fly night and day, rain or shine. Don’t wait for another tragedy to be patriotic. Hang a small flag in your dinning room and look on it as you enjoy your meal. Plan a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. Take your children. Show them and yourselves the price of our freedom, but don’t be sad, be proud. Trace your fingers over some the names etched in an war memorial. Go to the VA hspital. Visit with the men and women there. Hear the stories. Share the time. Only by remembering the price paid and those who pay it can we move forward toward the goal of no “walls”. Only through pride, honor and courage can we construct a world that will allow for the destruction of all walls.
Like all veterans what I want is simple. I want a world without walls. I want an end to all wars. Through honoring sacrifice, I want a world where my daughter will never have to know the sacrifices veterans have and continue to make. Having served in war my view is the ultimate dichotomy, pride in service, with an aim to never have another experience that pride. I ma O.K. with the ideal Utopia outlook. We must aim for something or we will hit nothing. Every time.
This logic of it may escape those who have not served in combat, but remember the men and women who serve and die as our enemies. Their example is the same as our own honored, Their wounded just as scared, their graves just as hallowed, and their sacrifice just as great. The walls that others build we may not agree with, the walls may even be downright wrong, but understanding the motives for their building is a step to destroying those walls. My hope is that these words can help others glean new perspective and that by remembering all who serve in the name of his or her country, friend and enemy alike, we move forward to a world without Colonel Jessup’s walls.