That time of year has passed again. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns along the Western Front finally fell silent.
The 11th of November was soon marked by many nations who had participated in the blood bath of the Great War as Armistice Day, a day to remember the 9 million soldiers, sailors, and Marines who had lost their lives in the “War to End All Wars” and to honor the survivors. We promised ourselves never again would we go down war’s dark path, a promise not kept, as the Great War was followed by a greater war.
I am still among the living and am proud to have served my country, but to be honest I never know what to say to those who give me the “Merry Christmas” equivalent greeting for Veterans Day namely “Thank You for Your Service.” I am humbled by the gratitude but feel like I need to remind the person giving thanks that the reality is that I volunteered for military service. Others across our history did not.
What I want to say to all of you giving thanks to us is that as much gratitude is due to you. So, to those of you who welcomed us home, in some cases after five tours in combat, thank you for your compassion and patience. To my brothers and sisters who served, know that when the trappings of patriotism are reduced to its basics, it was first and foremost about you, about covering your back and getting you home alive to family. And I knew so well that were it not for you, I would not be here. Thank you for your fidelity and commitment to duty.
If “righteousness exalts a nation,” (Proverbs 14:34) perhaps it is time to rediscover our patience when the words of armchair patriots beckon us to wars that are not so clearly righteous? To those of you who work for peace, blessed are you. Thank you for your service.
The last soldier (an American born to second generation German immigrants) to die on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 did so at 10:59., one unforgiving minute short. He was 23 years old. Someone’s son or daughter will always be “the last.” Perhaps best to have fewer wars and less need for “Thank you for your service.”
JOSEPH R. FISCHER
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom