Ninety-five years ago on November 11th, the Treaty of Compiègne went into effect ending World War In, the greatest war that the world had ever seen at that time. In other parts of the world November 11th is celebrated as Armistice Day. However, in the United States, we do not celebrate the end of the war; instead, we honor all who have served. The day is meant to honor all those who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
When I was a child, after my parents went to work, I would spend the mornings before school at my Grandma and Pop’s house. One of my fondest memories is of me sitting on my Pop’s bed as he told me countless stories of his youth and how things were in his day. I remember him once telling me about his time in as a cook in the Navy. He told me, that as a cook he never had to worry about any one ever messing with him, because no one messed with the person who cooked their food. Although he never went to war, and only briefly stepped foot on a ship, he was nonetheless a proud Navy veteran. Because of him I have always had an enigmatic respected for those who choose to enlist.
However, all veterans are not as lucky as my Pop, as is the case with my great uncle. He served as a medic in Okinawa during the Vietnam War, and saw on a daily basis the hell of war. Not all wounds are physical, and I cannot possibly imagine the horrors that he witnessed and the everlasting effect they took on him. Although he did not pay the ultimate price for his country, the toll was unfathomably high.
The first time that I ever actually understood the significance of Veterans’ Day and its meaning I was 11 or 12 years old. Patriotic sentiment was high then, as 9/11 was still fresh and the War on Terror had yet to become the everlasting war that it turned into. It was Veterans’ Day and when I got home from school I saw our elderly neighbor, Mr. Lewis, out in his yard. I did not know him that well, but I did know that he had served in the military. Although I was uncertain of the branch at the time, I later discovered that he served in the Air Force. Feeling very patriotic I walked over to him to wish him a happy Veteran’s Day and thank him for his service, as all veterans should be on the 11th of November. He stoically thanked me for thinking of him and began to tell me about some of his experiences. Although to this day, I could not tell you what all he said; but I do remember the admiration I felt for him as I listened to him, as the pride he felt for his country and his time in service radiated from him.
Not too long ago, a friend came to me and told me that he was going to drop out of college and join the Marines. Seeing as how we are currently at war, I quickly told him that he was crazy and reminded him that he was essentially getting paid to possibly die. He listened to me patiently while I listed the reasons why he should not enlist. Finally, he stopped me and told me that he knew all of this, but still wanted to join—as he eventually did. Just like all veterans, he knew the price that he may be asked to pay for signing on the dotted line, but felt it was worth the risk.
Whether it is profuse bravery, or simple gullibility, when signing on the dotted line all military men and women know when they enlist that they may have to give their life for our country. But even still, I have never fully understood the amount of veneration that we as Americans show our military. In the end, a military career is just like any other career. They get paid to do their job, like anyone else. That is the most astonishing thing about military service though; it is just a job. However, going into it, every soldier knows the risk they are taking, and yet they still choose that path. They do what no one else is willing to do, they choose to possibly die, be wounded, or forever emotionally scared for the United States of America, and for that I thank you.