Occasions Like Veterans Day Offer a Much Needed Opportunity to Reflect
I had the good fortune to participate yesterday in a Veterans Day commemoration in our community. I don’t often attend or provide part of the program at such gatherings. Yesterday reminded me why that is an error on my part. These are important reaffirmations of community on a very fundamental level.
I’d like to share with you a few observations that came out of the day for me that reflect the value of such gatherings. I hope they will encourage you to seek out such opportunities, too.
- Gatherings like this remind us that there are issues and callings far above the mundane elements of everyday life. That people respond to those calls is both encouraging and remarkable.
- As I looked around our gathering of a hundred or so, I saw some folks with whom I have very substantial political disagreements. Those disagreements did not, and will not, go away. But for at least one day, they were secondary to our shared experience as combat veterans. It reminded us all that no matter how strong and varied our disagreements, we still have things in common that should be celebrated together.
- We celebrated not just our veterans but their families as well. Military families are nothing short of remarkable. Even after over 30 years of hanging out with them, they awe me with their tenacity, dedication, and ingenuity. They represent the best of us. Veterans are lucky to have them in their corner.
- These commemorations also provide an opportunity to reflect on others who serve in different ways. Military service is unique in the danger it entails and the long family separations it demands. But in the same spirit of service and willingness to sacrifice, we do well to recognize fire fighters, law enforcement, and first responders, to name a few. These are people who take great risks, daily, to protect you and I.
- While we are on the category of law enforcement, let’s remember that a lot of good law enforcement officers are out there. The abuses we know of in law enforcement, especially in racial matters, is real and must be called out. I do so in part as a way of supporting the good police officers that are out there. I want them to know we appreciate them, and we have their back in cleansing their ranks of those not worthy to carry a badge.
- Few endeavors so fully engage the human experience as military service, especially in war. Yesterday we reflected on that. We had to call on Aristotle, the Bible, Shakespeare, a wide variety of music and some serious storytelling to barely capture what this is all about.
- There was much laughter and good-natured kidding, especially among the services. Occasionally, there was not a dry eye in the house. This is as it should be. We are gathered to reflect on the big issues of life. These are powerful social and emotional gatherings. They are at once cathartic and reassuring.
A closing thought. Too often activities like this are only attended by veterans and their families. That is a loss for the community. If you feel you have no connection to Veterans Day or Memorial Day, think again. People choose to serve because they want to do what is right by their community and their country. You need to meet them and hear their stories. Gatherings like this are living history, all around you. They will not be here forever. Take the opportunity to understand the decisions they made and the lives they lead as a result.
If you are a veteran or a supporting family of a veteran, thank you. I feel honored to walk in your company. May our country always remember who you are what you did.
Bill Clontz (3rd from Left)
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