11/11, Respect It

Last term, we celebrated the 87th anniversary of the end of World War I, a horrible conflict that saw the rise of modern warfare. 126,000 American boys gave their lives in a war that was hardly popular at best, yet our soldiers fought anyway and gave the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of their country, as well as of the entire world. Our nation takes Veterans’ Day off to celebrate this glorious day and to honor those who fell for freedom. Our oh-so-righteous and politically correct institution has decided that one extra day of school is more important than honoring the millions who gave their lives for this country. This passivity is outrageous, and the school administration is, in effect, spitting in the faces of those brave souls who have provided the blanket of freedom and liberty under which we, as civilians, sleep every night. I attended the Veterans’ Day ceremony last Friday. As Truman would have said, it was a “solemn but glorious” gathering. The speeches were touching (particularly the one given by relatives of Erik Kristensen ’91). The music was stunningly beautiful. And yet, even after that great reflection, the rest of the day left something to be desired. I had a wonderful experience speaking with a highly decorated veteran at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. this past summer. He landed with the first wave on Omaha Beach as a part of the 29th division of the 1st Army. Half of his friends were killed within twenty minutes of the landing. He said the only reason he was still alive was that he kept moving towards land; he knew if he let his fear stop him, he would surely die. His actions showed courage in its most raw and awesome form. I asked him if he felt society owed him anything. His response: “I don’t want sympathy, and I don’t want money. All I want is a little thank you every once in a while.” Jose Narosky once said, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” In my mind, there are few truer words. It is speculated that twenty percent of soldiers who have returned from Iraq to date suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even if a soldier returns home from war unscathed, he returns with the horrible memories of conflict and death. Some lose touch with reality; others cannot find the will to live. It is vital to the health of the physically and emotionally scarred that we honor them and make sure they know they are not overlooked or forgotten. Some object to Veteran’s Day because they believe that the holiday condones war. These people believe that those who fought and died for their country should not be rewarded with a holiday. How ridiculously naïve. What these “intellectuals” fail to understand is that they would not have been allowed to express these feelings were it not for those who died to preserve this country. They think that expression is an entitlement, but as the saying goes, “freedom is never free.” Veterans’ Day is a national holiday. Public school is not in session. All expendable government services are closed, as well as many businesses. This happens not because they don’t need the day of productivity (they do), or because they feel like being nice to their charges. They take the day off because they appreciate that if it weren’t for our veterans, this country, their freedom, and subsequently their businesses would not even exist. If we didn’t have volunteer fighters in the American Revolution, we would have remained a British colony, and the advent of democracy across the world would never have taken place. Without our soldiers in the 1860’s, our country would have been partitioned into two separate states, one in which slavery would be legal and common. Hitler could have ruled the world. The Jews would have been wiped off the face of the earth in the fires of the Nazi concentration camps. An oppressive communist government might have total control over us. Elmer Davis says it best: “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”