Monday, November 7, 2011

5 days

Five days from today is Veterans' Day. All the ads in the Sunday newspapers made me think about how veterans themselves might view what has happened to this day of remembrance and thanksgiving.

Yes, I know the official Thanksgiving is the last Thursday in November. The sale ads for the day after -- "Black Friday" -- are already being hinted at. That holiday is observed for a completely different reason and has evolved far away from it's original intent.

Even now with so many American military members overseas, we are encouraged to focus on buying stuff on the one day intended to honor our veterans.

Veterans' Day isn't even observed by many employers. It has become a regular work day so that employees can be off to spend bundles on "Black Friday"! For the folks who remember their family members and friends who served their country, this may be a painful reminded of how their sacrifices are ignored.

For a high school classmate of mine, Veterans' Day and Christmas Eve are two difficult days. Nancy's older brother John was sent to Vietnam in 1968, within days of completing basic training. Five days later, he stepped into a rice paddy and was shot dead.

Five days after completing grueling training which was rushed because so many young men were dying in Southeast Asia and needed to be replaced, John was no more. Five days wasn't even enough time to grow a decent mustache . . .

His family was at the airport when his remains were brought back to the States for burial -- on Christmas Eve. As sometimes happens, a SNAFU on the identities of several other caskets caused even more agony for the families.

Losing a family member messes up family dynamics. It certainly did in Nancy's family. Her younger brother was so traumatized by his brother's death that he ran away. All these years later, he has very little contact with his parents and siblings.

Military service is honorable and noble -- no doubt about it. It can also throw families into turmoil and cause unimaginable pain. With both men and women being deployed thousands of miles away for incredibly long periods, it's a wonder families can survive. Children can feel abandoned. They cannot understand why Mom or Dad's job sends them so far away from home for so long. Sometimes they blame themselves.

I don't care about missing "fantastic sales" this Friday. I'll sacrifice the sales to remember family and friends who sacrificed their time, health and often their sanity to protect me and our country.

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