Hard Candy: Veterans Day

My grandfather fought in the second World War. He was a crew chief for the Army air force in the Pacific theatre; he flew the Burma hump. I saw him almost every day of my life, but I don’t think I ever thanked him for going to war.

Today is Veterans Day. It’s not a big holiday, as far as Hallmark holidays go. But of all the holidays we have in a given year, it’s probably the most important one to us as a country. Oh, Independence Day is a great day, yes, but that celebrates one day. Veterans Day honors all the men and women who have protected the United States every day since that day.

We have a way of cheapening holidays until their true meaning is so distilled that we don’t even understand it anymore; if you don’t believe me, take a look at the spectacular Christmas displays you see starting to pop up around town. Now look around and tell me how many have a baby Jesus anywhere in the scene. So, today, take a minute to think about what we’re honoring.

The things I am about to say next are, perhaps, unoriginal. That doesn’t make them untrue or unworthy of saying. To the contrary, I would argue that these words are worthy of repeating, if for no other reason to remind us.

Men and women who fight in wars see things the rest of us will only see on newsreels or in movies. They are called upon to do things most of us could never imagine so that the rest of us never have to imagine them. They leave their mothers, fathers, their wives, their husbands, and their children knowing they may never see them again. They do this so we can enjoy our families.

Today, there is no draft in the United States. The men and women fighting overseas are there somewhat willingly, but that doesn’t make it easy. Many of them probably never expected to see battle. I wonder how many of them thought about what it means to be a veteran before they shipped out.

I do not now and never have supported what our country is doing overseas, but that doesn’t matter and it isn’t the same thing as not supporting our troops. It is not a soldier’s job to think about whether or not they should be fighting; it is their job to fight. Say what you will about our “war on terror” but leave our enlisted men and women out of it. They didn’t make the decision to invade. They signed on to protect our country, plain and simple.

After my grandfather died, I met a group of ex-prisoners of war who met monthly, led by St. Pete Beach resident Homer Still. Each man in the group told stories of being captured at war and later liberated. Listening to them speak I first understood what it cost for people to guarantee my freedom. It was the first time I truly appreciated my grandfather’s sacrifice.

Today, seek out one of the men or women who served our country. It probably isn’t enough to say thank you, but, really, what else can you say? If you have time, ask them to tell you about their time in the service. We will never understand what they’ve been through, but we can appreciate it.

To those of you who served, there’s very little I can say, except to offer my gratitude for your willingness to do things I cannot understand to guarantee a way of life for people whom you do not know.

Thank you.
Contact Cathy Salustri at Cathy@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.