Being at war, at least this time around, brings out the best in folks on Veterans Day. As a country we are good at recognizing the personal sacrifices and challenges of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have developed many ways of recognizing the problems facing military families and the community is rising to meet the needs of the families of deployed soldiers.
I want to make sure that ALL vets get some recognition today. We've had a military since before the country was founded and many people have served in it. Think about the folks who are former military -- for the most part they are Veterans as well. They may have served in Korea of Vietnam. When they got home, they were looked at with suspicion -- and probably spat at. This group is obvious too... and, really not the people I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the people who joined the military in the '80s and '90s. They often chose to serve their country instead of going to college -- or, they did both --- and the college took a long time to finish. While their peers were getting degrees and promotions, they were winning the Cold War and either fighting or supporting the first Gulf War. Many of them are out now -- either retired or simply tired of the military and decided to go elsewhere.
Many of these folks were in technical jobs -- particularly in computers. Imagine telling a computer programmer in 1992 that their annual salary would be $25,000.... they'd laugh and accept any one of a dozen jobs that paid twice that. Whole buildings full of folks accepted their $25,000 because they felt they were contributing to their country. Now many of them are thinking they should have taken the cash in the civilian job market.... and for all the recognition they get, maybe they are right.
What makes a Veteran important to our country is their willingness to serve. It takes a very selfless person to decide to give up significant amounts of their own personal freedom for the greater good. It takes considerable courage to take a job that could mean you get shot at -- even if it doesn't happen. It takes a great deal of self-esteem to take a job that many people think requires no intellectual skills and is only the province of people who can't get other jobs. It takes a sense of adventure to take a job that will probably send you to someplace you'd never go on your own, where you don't speak the language and where you often can't afford to do all the fun things (think enlisted person's salary, in Tokyo -- for example).
Every Veteran has these qualities -- and more. Today is the day to appreciate those who do what most of us don't want to do -- and who did it so that you don't have to.
Personally, I'm going to spend most of the day working on a new version of the ethics of warfare--- and I'm going to take my Hubby/Veteran to lunch.
ps... Memorial Day is the day for honoring those who died in combat -- or after serving. Veteran's day is for the living... please keep it that way. Really, the dead men and women who have served already have their day, we give them picnics and parades -- we decorate their graves -- don't lump them in with the very alive Veterans among us...