It is hard to imagine that 100 years ago a U.S. celebration of Veterans Day would have been considered an idea in some warped person’s imagination.
Europe was a continent at relative peace, so much so that it had been nearly a century since a conflict had spilled across the continent. Still, France and Germany were ready on a moment’s notice to be at each other’s throats.
One hundred years later, we have fought too many wars and "police actions" to count. After Vietnam, frankly, I lost count.
Now, here we stand with neither a trace of naivete nor any illusion that the next war will end all wars. A conflict in any part of the world can have a ripple effect and cause trouble within our own borders.
We have a fit fighting unit that protects our interests in the Western Hemisphere (our immediate neighborhood) and around the world. These men and women will find themselves in harm's way more often than we want to imagine.
Older veterans will tell you that they would never want to find themselves in the position that our present-day warriors are in, with terrorist attacks possible almost anywhere, at any time. There is a great deal of respect that goes both ways.
Our active military personnel and younger veterans listen with reverence to the stories that older veterans tell of shore landings in World War II, being pinned down in the frozen mountains of the Korean Peninsula, and the sweltering jungle warfare of Vietnam.
I have witnessed this first-hand and can tell you that the brotherhood is very real. It is hard to break those bonds because veterans know that the one thing they all depended on, to a person, was the companionship and protection of their comrades. After coming through the last century of almost unbroken conflict, you can see why those bonds are so important.
Our remaining World War II veterans saluted the veterans of World War I. Many of these older veterans had been fathers and uncles to these men. With the passing of the torch from one generation to the other, we found a generation that held its dignity in higher regard.
A simple hat, insignia or a pin would often pass for identification. Quietly, they showed the generations that followed how men of courage carry themselves.
Korean and Vietnam veterans will soon take their place as "senior" veterans, telling their stories in a soft-spoken, dignified way. Korean Conflict veterans will talk about a war fought over principles that were hard to comprehend then and harder still today, the idea of containing an enemy rather than defeating him.
The soldiers that returned home would tell the same story that our Vietnam veterans told later, after the dust had settled. "We were just carrying out our orders," they say, and "Do your duty and get home in one piece."
Give that veteran a chance to tell his or her story. You might be surprised just what they went through, but more importantly watch their mannerisms as they greet fellow veterans. A century of warfare creates an unbreakable brotherhood.