A tribute with meaning
Nov 12, 2012 | 603 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most are familiar with the history of Veterans Day and understand its deep symbolism.

Many attend community ceremonies acknowledging the role of our soldiers in preserving the American way of life and protecting our fundamental ideals, the most significant of which is freedom.

An untold number of families have members of the military within their immediate and extended throng of loved ones, whether local, in some distant corner of our nation or on the other side of the world.

Those families that are truly blessed still have a veteran from a past war within their households — whether the man or woman in uniform is a survivor of the World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq eras.

Some organizations and churches conducted Veterans Day observations on Sunday — the actual Nov. 11 calendar date for the holiday — and others are doing the same today.

The annual Veterans Day Ceremony for the Cleveland and Bradley County community was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. today in beautiful downtown Cleveland on the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza.

Other such ceremonies were taking place throughout the day including businesses, industries, schools and other organizations, all of whom wanted to honor their own. While these tributes do sometimes pose scheduling conflicts for area residents — and veterans — who would like to participate, the point is this: Whenever, wherever and under whatever circumstances, our nation and our community owe a deepening debt of gratitude to those who wear the American uniform and who apologize to no one for their love of country and their belief in the message behind the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag.

As we have mentioned in past editorials, in some communities Veterans Day — and even Memorial Day — are given little recognition other than serving as the third day of a three-day weekend.

Not only is this disconcerting, it is disrespectful to those who have safeguarded the many freedoms we hold so dear in today’s troubled world.

Let none make this mistake. Veterans Day and Memorial Day observations are not celebrations of war. They are not a sand-in-the-line plea for additional military confrontation. No one wants war, nor should they. A uniformed soldier would be among the first to agree.

Wars are won and wars are lost.

But what of the soldiers who must fight them? Even in their nation’s victory, few soldiers win. These courageous warriors must spend the rest of their lives haunted by the memories of combat, the uncertainties of death and the stark reality that life for them has changed forever. In the knowing words of Argentine writer Jose Narosky, who we quoted in Sunday’s editorial, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”

In keeping with the latter message, we offer this reminder to all — especially to those who have surviving veterans within their families, those who work with a veteran or those who call a veteran friend.

To honor their sacrifice is an admirable act and one that is well-deserved. But deepen these tributes. Get to know the veteran and to understand his ways or her values.

Don’t just glance at a veteran during a ceremony; look into the eyes.

Don’t just shake the hand of a veteran; tighten the grip and hold the exchange.

Don’t just slap the veteran on the back; embrace the warrior and feel the warmth.

Don’t just “congratulate” the veteran on this special day; offer a “God Bless You” and say it with feeling.

Don’t just wave at a veteran across the way; seek him out in the crowd or find her after the ceremony and say, “Let me buy you a cup of coffee. I just want to talk.”

Don’t just assume a veteran has little to say; engage his expression and read her mannerisms, then interpret with reassuring kindness and unconditional love.

Veterans Day is, and should always be, a venue for ceremony.

But most importantly, it is a time for sharing.