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Another half-observed holiday

Today is Veterans' Day, another on the list of holidays that are only partially observed. Banks are closed, the mail is closed, and in some states school is closed. Otherwise, business goes on as normal.

I wonder how many people are really remembering the veterans today? I have a hell of a lot of respect for the people who are willing to give their lives for what they believe in. Mind you, I'm a pacifist. I strongly believe that war is wrong, and that if people were sane there would be no reason for a military. However, the simple truth is that people are not sane, and pacifism is not practical beyond an individual level. We have to have military forces, whether I like it or not. And I'm deeply grateful to the people who volunteer to serve, so that I don't have to be forced into compromising my principles.

The military truly does make men out of boys, too. I've known several people who floundered in life, and eventually joined the military. Pretty much every time, it turned their lives around. The structure, discipline, and authority that would drive me crazy is exactly what some people need.

I remember the grandfathers and great-grandfathers whose war was sixty years ago. In their day, the enemy was clear, and there was no question of who was the aggressor. The bright young boys went off to war in clean new uniforms with their girls behind them knitting socks and rolling bandages. Today, the old men are interviewed on the History Channel, and telling their stories to each other in nursing homes.

I remember the wars where it all became confusing, and the soldiers weren't even sure why they were there. Just take a look at M*A*S*H - it's set in Korea, but it's really about Vietnam. All the lines blurred. It's no wonder they came home confused, and couldn't adjust to life at home any more than they could adjust to their war.

I remember the men and women who have served in conflicts in my lifetime. My friend's father went overseas when I was in junior high. And of course the radio and television stations are making sure none of us forget the ones who are there right now. I'm just glad that the Information Age means everyone goes into it with their eyes open, knowing what they can expect.

And I remember the invisible veterans too, the ones who served in times of peace and times of low-profile action. Their sacrifice is no less great. They still gave their time, and offered up their lives. They still left behind friends and families who worried about what would happen to them. And many of them came home to find that no one but their families cared. Because they weren't on the news, no one remembers what they did, or would have done.

The Army. The Marines. The armed services aren't just monolithic Lego blocks with guns pointing out the sides - link more blocks together for the size of conflict you need. They are thousands and thousands of individual real people, each with their own story. And I remember.

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