Commentary

Timothy Lickness

Guest Commentary

The first sign was an unrecognized van sitting in the driveway of my sister's house. She wondered who would be visiting her without a call first. As she got closer she saw the government license plates and her worst fears begin to flood her mind.

It is wonderful this time of year to participate in Veterans Day celebrations. I love seeing our newest veterans being honored for their service and sacrifice of our nation. There is such a sense of pride when we see these military men and women celebrated and recognized. There is just something special about seeing them in their uniforms adorned with medals, ribbons and badges that tell their stories.

Veterans Day is a day to honor those who have worn the uniform of the armed forces. How should we honor veterans? The most obvious answer is by having a Veterans Day in which we pay tribute to and thank those who served. We build monuments, cenotaphs, memorials and museums. We listen to speeches and patriotic music, and watch parades. And we take time to thank individual veterans.

From time to time it is good to reflect on the many blessings we have as citizens of this great nation. And Memorial Day is a particularly good time to reflect on those who have given so much so that we can have these blessings.

Veterans Day this year has the distinction of an unusual date: 11/11/11. Regardless, this Veterans Day will be like most others. There will be speeches, parades and barbecues. People from every generation will line streets to watch bands playing patriotic music and honor guards carrying flags. Floats will be decked out in red, white and blue, and vintage cars will carry notables. Like all Veterans Days, it is an opportunity to thank those who at one time raised their hand, took an oath and signed a blank check to pay whatever was required to assure our way of life, our liberties and our freedoms.

Forty-two years ago I was laid up in a hospital in Japan recovering from a minor wound that had become infected. I had been serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.

Saturday morning, April 10, 2010 I attended a memorial services at Eastlake High School for a fallen hero of the War in Iraq.

Veterans Day is important to me. It causes me to think about all those men and women who have put on the uniform and served on behalf of one of the branches of the U.S. military.

I do not think that even at this point, eight years later, many Americans fully realize what we are facing. Our initial national paroxysm of rage and call to action is now replaced with resignation and complacency. There is an elephant in our collective parlor which most now fail to acknowledge. An accurate picture of where we are is so distasteful that we would rather turn away -- pretending it is not there. But it is and left unattended disastrous damage is sure to follow.

I'm attending a reunion today. There won't be any of the pomp that often goes with reunions. It will be a quiet affair attended by 10 or so men. We'll meet at a local restaurant hardly noticed by the other patrons. There'll be the usual embraces and smiles that come with seeing friends. Talk will start with updates on careers and personal lives. Someone will brag that at 60-plus years he can still run a marathon. Another will point out that he's now as fit as he was when he was 25. Side conversations will abound and at times we'll crane to hear what someone is saying at the other end of the table.

The U.S. Army's Soldier's Creed, adopted in 2003, include these words, "I will never leave a fallen comrade." All branches of the military have lived, and sometimes died, by what these words mean even before formally adopted.

Sunday is Veterans Day. For me it is a day of intense emotion. It's a day my wife often asks if I'm OK. She has no way of knowing the events that I relive.

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