Veterans Day Thoughts

Veterans day has always made me a little uneasy. It wasn’t until recently that I finally put my finger on it.

Poppy Field

Poppy Field by marilynjane on Flickr.com

To be clear, it’s not the result of some overly sensitive “we shouldn’t celebrate war” kind of thinking. While at my core I’ll admit to being more of a Start Trek “one planet, one people” kind of person, I acknowledge that war has shaped our planet in important ways and that we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who fought and continue to fight for our rights and freedoms.

It’s just that I’m feeling a little left out.

My late father fought in World War II. My understanding is that he was in the army for a time. With his brother was even captured by – and escaped from – the Nazis.

But he was, of course, in the Dutch army.

Now, maybe there’s an appropriate veterans day celebration going on in Holland today, I don’t know. My parents left in 1952 and eventually landed here in the United States.

Veterans Day in the U.S. is decidedly a very patriotic and U.S. Armed Forces centric celebration. And as I said, I don’t want to take away from that at all. Not only do we in the U.S. owe our servicemen and women a debt of gratitude for our freedom, but Europe, and Holland specifically owe an even deeper thanks.

But still, it does leave me feeling a little left out.

Where are the thank-yous for the people like my father? He fought for the same principles and ideals that we celebrate today. For him it was even more personal, as it was his country that was overrun and occupied, eventually to be freed by Canadian and U.S. forces.

And again, his country, and I, are eternally grateful for that freedom and the U.S.’s role in bringing it about. But in some ways his personal contribution to that effort seems lost on days like today.

The U.S. is a land of immigrants, some more recent than others, of course. But it is those people from around the world that have made it what it is today.

I have to believe that my father is not alone. I’m sure that there are many who have served, perhaps in the service of other countries, who now live in the United States. Individuals who fought for the same freedoms we embrace, and often right along side U.S. armed forces.

Do they deserve our thanks? I think they do.

Yet …

Perhaps I’m just looking at it wrong.

Perhaps Veteran’s Day really is country-specific. Perhaps it really us a U.S. holiday here to celebrate only those who served in the U.S. military. I can understand that, I guess. Perhaps one of the costs of leaving your homeland is missing out on the gratitude that you may be due.

But on behalf of my father, I feel a little left out. Not that he would have wanted it, but some kind of recognition for his service would have been … nice.

So absolutely I thank veterans everywhere for their service and sacrifice.

All of them.

 

Comments

  1. Bryceson SheehAN says:

    As an ex. West Coaster I would like to thank you for the efforts that you expend in publishing your newsletter and answering questions via email.

    Many thanks and wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year.

  2. Danny Smith says:

    Leo I am sorry that you feel this way, I agree with you however. As a 20 year retired Veteran on the US Army I feel a bond with Veterans of other countries that people not having served in any military can not understand. My late father was a Veteran of WWII and the Korean War having been wounded in both engagements.

    I am the fourth generation of my fathers people to be born in America, north central Louisiana specifically. Dads people, both sides of his family, came here from Ireland. When my friends talk of their ancestry going back to the days of the American Revolution, I have nothing to add to the conversation, “we” were not here!

    Although as a nation we do not recognize Veterans from other countries now living in our ranks, we should. I do hope your father rests well in the knowledge before he passed on that he willingly served his country and did his part to eradicate tyranny. And as a citizen you have done an exemplary job in serving your fellow Americans.

  3. S. Swint says:

    You know, I have never thought of Memorial Day as a day specifically for United States veterans. My father served in WWII; my husband in the air force during buildup to Viet Nam, but when asked to stand up for family members who served in those wars during memorial services, I would rise even if they had served in Holland’s armed forces. Memorial poppies were first distributed in Great Britain; we use them here, too…the memories and honor are multi-national. I know we decorate with American flags, but next time they ask for family members to stand, I hope you will, also, and remember the words of the beautiful memorial at York Cathedral, England: “They gave (risked) their tomorrows that we might have our todays.” I appreciate your father’s service.

  4. Jessica-Jean says:

    If by Veterans’ Day you mean November 11th, it is not only commemorated in the USA. It is also a day of remembrance in Canada with solemn ceremonies in most localities. The poppy is worn from the beginning of November until they fall off or are removed. There may be less decorating of tombstones than in the US, but the veterans – living and dead – ARE remembered.

    Is there any other date that’s changed its name? Armistice Day -> Veterans Day.
    http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp?utm_source=WallBuilders+Mailings&utm_campaign=33c9d9b514-Veterans_Day_201111_7_2011&utm_medium=email