Recognize Veteran’s Day. . .2013

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By Shawn StJean

I haven’t been very active on the blog lately, but I’d like to offer a few thoughts to observe this important holiday, which many allow to pass unremarked year after year.

I posted this particular photo (taken several years ago) because these little guys are now grown enough to be serving in the armed forces today.

Everyone’s experience with the military, and attitude toward it, extend in a different degree, minute, and second of the compass.  Many of the founding fathers considered a “standing [permanent] army” a great evil to be avoided, and in the 19th century Henry D. Thoreau lamented a Marine “such as [the government] can make a man, with its black arts.”  Yet it’s hard to argue against the fact that, in the twentieth century, we can still point to our elder veterans, and say we owe them the continued existence our very way of life.  And, of course, today we have our own brands of wars, both declared and undeclared, which lead to shell shock, Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD, and the like.  Or to jingoism and fervor, or disillusionment, or even apathy.  Vets, despite Thoreau’s attack, are all-too-human.

So I don’t urge you to go out and buy a vet a drink, necessarily, or to shake his hand or verbally thank her, nor to pass by and secretly despise her, if that’s your political stance.  But some kind of acknowledgement may lie within your power.  Perhaps the greatest injustice done to the Vietnam vets was a refusal to validate their experiences and even their existences, for better and worse.

Vets do not pass us, whether on the battlefield or on Main Street, as Oliver Stone once put it, as “ghosts in a landscape.”

A Moment of Silence, Before the Spectacle Begins. . .

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Amid ever-increasing commercialism of both professional sports and the holiday season in general, this is sobering to see.  My two favorite NFL teams will be battling it out today, in the latest in a long-standing tradition of AFC East grudge matches.  But the question of whether the New England Patriots can defeat the Buffalo Bills pales in comparison to the awesome gravity of Veteran’s Day itself, and its tribute to the real-world battles and wars fought outside relatively small arenas like Gillette Stadium, so that we Americans can continue to enjoy our very way of life.

The Patriots football organization has dedicated a permanently empty seat, above their south endzone, to American POWs and MIAs since World War I.

For those who will never get the opportunity to visit this small but important shrine, click and read the plaque in enlargement.  And take a moment today to acknowledge the veterans around you, living or dead, no matter what their age, service or conflict affiliation, length of service, or discharge status.  None of us wants war for any reason, right or wrong, and those who fight, and stand ready to fight, shoulder that burden for all of us.

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