It may be a family member. It may be a friend. It may be a co-worker. It may be a neighbor.
It may be a memory.
Like most national holidays, Veterans Day—the 11th of November—passes by quickly. Town, cities and veterans’ organizations will pay homage. American flags will seem more prevalent. Patriotism will be on display.
Though some may discourage saying “thank you” to a veteran for fear of acknowledging a special class of people, sincere gratitude is always appreciated. It’s a form of wholesome human interaction. It means something to the speaker, a way of connecting to an experience with which you may be unfamiliar.
Veterans deserve recognition. They served our nation, often under adverse conditions. They endured cold, wet and hot weather—and sometimes hostile enemy fire—far from home. They left loved ones and friends for deployments to parts of the world formerly unknown to them.
Many of my friends served in combat zones. Unless prompted, they typically are reluctant to discuss their experiences. Some witnessed the death of wartime comrades. Some wonder why they survived, and others didn’t return home to live to old age.
Some bemoan war.
To follow my own instincts, I plan to call a veteran or two. While I may not express thanks, I will acknowledge their service. I will ask questions. I will probe their feelings and memories, carefully, of course. I will acknowledge their sacrifice of familiar comfort.
I’ve known veterans my entire life. I always sensed an undeniable pride, a profound sense of accomplishment. Though they always talked about their children, weddings and births, they rarely failed to mention their military service. It simply didn’t matter how much they had achieved in life in terms of material success or accumulation of power; they usually found reason to talk about their life as a member of the uniformed services.
Their pride was always close to the surface.
I’ve always been interested, in my avid reading of obituaries, to note how almost unfailingly they mention a person’s military service, whether the deceased was a waterman, shop owner or corporate executive. Service to country matters to veterans and their families.
As it should.
We Americans might wish we didn’t have veterans. That peace and tranquility permeated our fractious world. The goal is noble. Unfortunately, history has proved it’s unattainable. Best intentions run opposite to the human condition.
War is inevitable.
War is grueling and gruesome.
War hardens your soul. It may be harder to cry and show emotion.
Thank God our country has been blessed with men and women willing to serve and families willing to be supportive.
So, today, take a few moments to speak with a veteran. Respect and honor their service. They are peacemakers.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.