The Heroes in Our Midst

On this Nov. 11, Veterans Day, we do honor. We do not necessarily celebrate victories, but remember valor, and remember the tragedies and triumphs of wars which brought about our nation’s rise to preeminence as a democracy and a world power.

Veterans Day is and should be about the men and women who have defended us and sacrificed for us and fought, suffered and died in those wars.

How as a people we view our military organizations has varied through our history. We were, after all, born late into the game of nations, and born in war and bloody revolution, a middling war in terms of blood and cost, but a war nonetheless, which secured our future and eventual standing and changed the world.

We fought a bitter and tragic Civil War less than a century into our existence as a nation, a conflict about issues of slavery, race and validation of country and memory that continue to fracture our fragile unity.

We fought and played critical roles in two World Wars and continue to deploy our military resources all over the world.

In all the wars and battles, the military class has been both a part of and separate from our democratic society. In one way or another, the armed forces have helped to form our sense of self and of national patriotism.

What never changes is the humanity of the men and women who fight the wars. They are our safeguards, the standard bearers, the ordinary made brave, the Americans brought to the point of danger, who risk their lives for love of country.

War changes over time, in the nature of combat, the horror of loss and wounds and in its aftermath. Combat is a world of its own, which in the end defies imagination

and art and can be felt and reported only by those who are in the thick of it and return indelibly scarred or not at all.

The knowledge of that isn’t always obvious — to the people and to the soldiers themselves. And there are risks. When the armed forces become an industry, there is the risk of corruption and the influence of the overly ambitious. At times, there is the risk of uncritical admiration of the military.

But Veterans Day is and should be about veterans, those who served, suffered and died in the past, and those who do so today. It is simply about the common humanity of those who serve, and their connection to us. To thank them for their service is entirely appropriate and necessary.

On Veterans Day, with an acute sense of the losses and suffering they endure, let us shower our veterans with respect, and honor them as the heroes in our midst.


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