In writing this post, I tried to think of bringing some special meaning to the day, something beyond the usual clamour of parades, mattress sales, and marking the halfway point between Halloween and Thanksgiving (at least here in the States). Something that would more fully glorify the veterans of all countries and all wars that this holiday marks. But in trying to do so, I realised that there was an unusual, but exceptionally pertinent, point that we all seem to be missing.
Now, I don’t mean love of your country, or love of your flag, or even love of freedom or peace. What I mean is a deeper love, and a love not for the veteran, but from the veteran. The love of which we should all be eternally grateful – the love of the veteran for you.
Would you be willing to do anything for your wife, husband, child, significant other, friend, or parent in your life? Even die, or worse yet, take a life? Most of us would say “yes” – while secretly hoping to never be tested to that extreme. But that’s for someone you know, someone you value, someone you love.
Would you do it for a stranger? Would you kill another person to save the life of some random person on the street? Would you take a bullet for an innocent, caught in the line of crossfire, or being targeted by a gun-wielding madman? Many of us would, out of love for our fellow human. But that’s for someone you know nothing of, who in your eyes is a neutral, someone you neither love nor hate.
But would you do it for someone you HATE? Someone who despises you, someone who denigrates everything you do and stand for. Someone who spews hatred, who lives a life dedicated to making the world a far more miserable place than it is right now. Someone who would curse you and your God, just for being you. Could you give your life, or take a life, for a neo-Nazi, a Tea Party birther, or an Islamic extremist?
Yet, this is the love the veteran has shown, and continues to show, every day of their service. They have set their own lives aside, sometimes forever, and travelled hundreds or even thousands of miles, to protect people they don’t know, and people they know are both good and evil. They leave family and friends behind, they leave home and hearth behind, and set forth into a cruel and inhospitable environment, to ensure the safety of all those left behind.
Whether in the cold of Valley Forge and the Caucasus Mountains, in the heat of the shores of Tripoli and the sands of Kandahar, on the storm-tossed seas of Atlantic or Pacific oceans and under those very waves, in the mud of Verdun and Stalingrad, in the jungles of Central America and Africa, in the streets of Lexington and Stalingrad and Mogadishu and Baghdad, in the skies over every continent, in all these environments and battles, the veteran has gone forth to do his (or her) terrible and unenviable job. And in doing so, often at the cost of their own life, the veteran has shown we civilians a great and boundless love.
So, wherever you find yourself tomorrow at 11am, whether in church or in a store or at home, do as Canada and Britain ask, and take 2 minutes. Just 120 seconds, on one day, out of your busy year and think about the veteran. Think about the US officer in the Joint Training Mission in Afghanistan, the rifleman of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry on the beach of Dieppe, the Lance Corporal in the Coldstream Guard regiment standing against Napoleon, the African-American pilot in the 332nd Fighter Squadron escorting bombers over Germany, and all those throughout history. For, as the Scriptures say, “No man can show a greater love for another man, than to lay down his life for him”. And whether in person or just in your mind, take the time to say “Thank you”.
Your two minutes will be well spent.