It was the 11 day of the 11th month, at the 11 minute of the 11th hour, when the armistice was signed to end the war to end all wars. Of course, that has not been the case. But in a time of idealism and enlightenment, it was thought so.
Somehow, I bet that kids today do not know the how fors and particulars of that event. After all, its just another day off from school. Or work, for the parents. Its a day of Hollywood's view of glamorized war, in the movies, on the TV.
Those of us who wore the Uniforms know this. Some were called against their will. Others walked in with their eyes wide open. All started as children. And all of us walked away as men.
My time was in the Medical Corp. MEDDAC. In the term of things, I was a REMF. Spent my time in basic, schools, and fixed facility hospitals. We were between the endless wars, so while I am a vetran, I do not have 'war' status.
In my day, the Russians were still the bad kids on the block. And they did not play fair with the other kids in the neighborhood. We stood the line. Ready to go and fight for something that we believed in. Were we childish or idealistic? Only history will tell us.
Since I left, and then found my war into the Fire Department, there have been countless wars. Countless young men and women have served. Most came home. Some have not. But, in all, we hold a brotherhood. Unlike anything someone on the outside could ever understand.
I remember as a kid, when the guys from Viet Nam came home. Hurt. Bruised. And mistreated by the very people they served. It was years before I raised my hand. Yet, even then I could not understand how a people could turn its back on them. How they could treat them with such distain.
I've made the trip to Arlington twice now. And with each visit I make, my understanding of just what these men, and women gave, to protect us, grows stronger in me, with each passing day. I know. I now understand. And I know that better men than I am, are not here to teach me about life. A lesson that all of us could use.
No one wants to talk about their own passing. Its a natural human emotion. Yet, all of us know that it will eventuallly come. To ease my own fears, I tell folks that the only thing I am taking with me when I go are the fillings in my teeth.
With that, I am at peace. But one thing does stick with me, and I will not compromise about it. A small folded flag. I earned it. It is mine. The last thing that I can say with any certainy, that I finished the requirements for. I am reminded of that flag on a daily basis. I can see the one that my father earned. There is not a day that goes past, that I do not walk past it, and glance up at it. It is a small thing. Really it is. A small piece of cloth of many colors. yet, to a Veteran, it is larger than the sum of its parts.
I fly a flag on my porch every day. For better or worse, it is my flag. And it means the world to me.
When you see a soldier in your travels. Thank them. They are the ones on the line, while you sleep in your beds at night. And even the dead, do not complain.