Today was a day without a physical step taken on our journey, but miles of progress were made. It has been marked with messages of support, visits with students, talks with media, and discussions of our trek thus far. The students were not gathered to honor us; rather, today was a day for them to learn about Veterans, sacrifice, service, and many other qualities that are often overlooked and taken for granted in our country.
It is amazing to me how the qualities we honor–on this day– are often the qualities we forget to have guide us daily. Valuing celebrity, possessions and wealth, power, and other vices often guide our compass, if not as individuals, then certainly as a collection of people. But on this day, we stop and recognize the values we would want to see in our children and ourselves and we recognize that few are willing to live them for others– to be soldiers and ambassadors for this Nation, representing all of us with the vigor and sincerity that we wish we saw from our leaders. To serve our communities, neighbors, friends, and families before they serve themselves.
We often fall short in our desire to be who we want to be or what we dream of being one day when we “grow up.” I think, often, when given an especially discouraging predicament, we fall onto, or seek out, the easy path, the path of least resistance. All the while, we continue to visualize what we desire and we let it slip away. The effort to maintain it is not worth the desire to achieve it.
It is in this way that we must honor, respect, and remember the Veteran. They are the ones who saw something they wanted to do–serve in war, serve in peace, serve their family, serve your family– and they went out and did it. No drill sergeant, no drill instructor, no war, no battle, no period of separation could dissuade them from honoring their commitment to all of us. We cannot forget this lesson, or these people will fade away into the history they helped create. They chose the path of ultimate resistance. It cannot be said enough that the effort needed to maintain, honor, protect, and serve them is certainly worth achieving. Our walk is similar in that it is a path of resistance, resistance to acceptance of a reality in which 22 Veterans a day commit suicide, where PTSD destroys people and families, and where the lessons of war are forgotten when the next story hits.
On this day, if no other, learn and reflect on the lessons you’ve learned from the experience of war and service. The perspectives they give are worth the time spent reflecting upon them. The true loss would be to understand the lesson and let it go when you understand it must be maintained and that it is your charge to maintain it. Veterans Day is a day when we can divorce ourselves from the petty political punditry and focus on the lesson and learn from people and not vacant talking heads focused on stealing your attention for their own purposes instead of serving you like those this day is named for.