Honor Veterans Day

Posted at Nov 11, 2013 5:43 pm


A poppy for remembrance.

This is a day I take seriously. I take my family to the cemetery. When I worked at a law firm that practiced business as usual on November 11, one year I took the day off to commemorate the day. I felt like that raised eyebrows, so another year I only walked to downtown Seattle’s Garden of Remembrance at lunch. That year, I felt like crap. That was my last year at the firm.

However, my feelings are complicated. A good friend called me at 8 am, as she does every year, to thank me for my service. I get thanks on Facebook. I appreciate all of those – I really do – don’t stop! My military service defined and changed my life. But I also feel a crap ton of guilt when people thank me, because my service was fun, not hard. I received more than I gave. I did a good job, but I had a blast, I wasn’t in any blasts. I know at an intellectual level that I’m a veteran because I spent twelve years in the Army, and I worked hard to get that oak leaf cluster I left wearing. So yes, I deserve thanks. I tell myself that every time someone offers it.

They stand and salute each and every one.

At the same time I feel like a little bit of a fraud. I didn’t sacrifice like my Uncle Mitch, a POW in WWII, or my cousin in the first Gulf War, or millions of others. My service fell in that sweet spot between wars.

About six years ago, after the usual request for veterans in the Evergreen-Washelli cemetery audience to stand and be acknowledged, the woman in front of me turned and thanked me for my service. On her denim jacket she wore a circular button with a photo of a young marine in his dress uniform and white hat. Although my heart beat in my throat, I asked her if that was her son. She said yes. I asked, although I suspected I knew her answer, if he was okay. She said no, he wasn’t. He was just over the hill. My son next to me was about five. I started to cry. This woman who had given so much, who had given her son, had thanked me? I gave nothing. Nothing.

I never learned her name, but I will never forget her words.

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