11 November 2009

Veteran's Day

We could, of course, post something thoughtful and somber. But you know what, let's not. We've got plenty of other days for that.

Veteran's Day is great because it celebrates all our vets, whether you were one of the guys who served in Godawful Somalia in the early 90s or whether you served as a Navy Yeoman in the late 80s who never left shore.

Peacetime, wartime, in combat or just in the constant state of confusion and paperwork flux that defines military service, this day celebrates everybody who's ever put on a uniform and said, "do with me what you will."

If you've ever been forced to care about the length of a $3 belt in relation to your belt-loops, this is your day. If you've ever spent an hour painting the little eyelets on a cartidge belt black, if you've ever received 37 hepatitis shots in two weeks because of lost paperwork, if you've ever walked 15 or 20 miles and then found the promised trucks or helicopters weren't coming and turned around and walked back...this is your day.

If at one point or another you rode a bus to a training center in the middle of the night and, as you saw someone with abnormally good posture waiting in the darkness, thought, maybe this was a really bad idea... If you've ever folded your underwear and t-shirt into squares and watched someone take a ruler to those squares... If you've ever had to find a helmet to move a vehicle across a parking lot, learned to carry 45 bags in your left hand to retain the ability to salute, been told by angry sweating cook that "gravy" is the main course...this is your day.

If you've used your boots as a pillow while waiting on a plane that may or may not show up, if you've ever thanked the taxpayers out loud over a pitcher of beer, if you've ever dragged your buddy out of an Asian tattoo parlor to make it back to the ship on time...it's your day.

Oftentimes, veterans are modest to a fault. The vast majority of us were not among the Rangers who took the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, and realizing there are real heroes among us, tend to not want to brag on our own, minor achievements and experiences.  This is an honorable impulse, but once in a while we need to celebrate all our service, even the most pedestrian.

So corner a family member, a loved one, or a friend.  Best of all if you can corner a child or teenager.  Insist they listen to your stories, don't be afraid to embellish a little.  If you were once forced to process leave forms on a Friday afternoon, make it into a mountain of leave forms (just for storytelling purposes).  If you changed tires on five-ton trucks at Fort Polk, make it into a lot of five-ton trucks, in July, with water mocassins. Don't be afraid to start a story with There I was...in the Camp Kinser postal facility a week before ChristmasCelebrate the time nobody had told you smoke grenades get hot, or to watch your thumb with that Garand, or that chock blocks go on the downhill side of the tires.

(Suggest if you're telling stories to spouses or children, you don't tell any that start out There I was...on Pattaya Beach on liberty...)

It's Veteran's Day.  Be proud of your services, and share your experiences with those close to you.