Monday, November 13, 2006

Veteran's Day 2006

I spent a good part of Saturday attending an Eagle Scout Court of Honor. Craig Cox, a Scout from my Troop, received the medal and badge of his rank in a ceremony held at the church that sponsors our Troop. I was one of the invited speakers - other speakers included his pastor, a teacher from his high school, and three members of the New Jersey Marines League - retired members of the US Marines who are happy to come to Eagle Scout ceremonies and to make formal presentations of certificates on behalf of their organization.

These Marines in their dress blue uniforms looked great -- I think the youngest man was at least ten years older than me, maybe more, but even so they looked splendid. They were obviously very proud to be Marines, and I thought to myself that they were very lucky to have that - that pride in themselves, in their service, and in their membership in that elite organization.

Earlier in the day, as I put on my suit and tie, I was listening to WNYC. They were playing recorded stories of veterans -- from the StoryCorps booths in Grand Central Terminal and a few other spots. These stories are captured through interviews -- ordinary people interviewing a loved one, a father or mother, brother or spouse. One story was told by a young couple who married just before the husband shipped out to Afghanistan.

It was a story we don't often hear -- in large part, it was the story of the family at home, the stress and challenge to a marriage, the changes, the heartache and doubt, the pride and loyalty and love.

There was another story - told by an Army nurse who served during the Vietnam debacle. She told of taking part in anti-war protests, and she remembered that some of the anti-war feeling extended to an anti-soldier feeling as well.

It occurred to me that we have badly used the people who serve in the armed forces. They and their loved ones have sacrificed so much, and we hardly notice. We let them spill their blood in misguided and unjust wars, without the equipment or leadership they need. They bravely face whatever challenges we put to them, and we have not the decency to pay any attention.

As I sat in the church on Saturday, I saw those three Marines come in and sit in the back. I had already noted in the program that they would be making a presentation. Nobody paid them any attention -- they were not from our Troop, not from that church, not family members. I got up from my seat and crossed the church to welcome them, to shake their hands, and to thank them for taking part in the ceremony.

It was a small gesture, but I think I may have been the only person to do so.

How did you remember Veteran's Day?