I know it's not called "Armistice Day" anymore, but the name has a lot of power, and it's an important reminder of what has gone before.
I realise the sacrifice many men and women have made for me and for our country. I cannot thank them enough, even if I tried.
The best way I can thank these people is to do so right here, so...
Thank you, Pawpaw, for serving your time in what was at the time called 'the Regular Army.' I have a photo somewhere of you and MawMaw, her proud and stern, you relaxed and handsome in your flat brim campaign hat and wool uniform. Your sons followed your example and put in time with the armed forces. Thank you Uncle Doug, for your service in the Armed Forces. Thank you Uncle Jewel, who served in the coldest hell of WWII, the Aleutian Islands. Thank you to HIS two sons, Ernest and James Ray, who both served in their own personal hell, Vietnam. Thank to to my father, who served in peacetime all across the world. Thank you to Jason, who just came home from Iraq alive and whole, and thank you to Bill, who left his mark in Vietnam, the godforsaken place that left its mark on him. And thank you to Misty, who I haven't seen in two years or more, but who also served her time in Iraq, and even Petty, who I don't speak to any more but who also went across the sea to put his life on the line for all of us, even if he was reluctant to do so.
And thank you T. L., for the six years you gave to The Corps. And thank you to Danny, the Leatherneck who used to be a punk kid but who grew up to be a real man. Thank you Kevin, and your brother whom I never met--you both put your time in for me and mine, and one of you isn't here anymore to thank in person, but know that I respect what he gave to us all. And thank you most sincerely to all the people who I don't even know--the soldiers whom I might have seen in passing, the guys I barely if at all remember, because they're doing the same thing: giving their time and sometimes their lives for the faceless rest of us. There's a reason I stood out front of our office and waved until my arms hurt to all the National Guardsmen heading south during Katrina--respect, and love, and gratitude.
When they were young, my father and his brothers heard the call and served their country proudly, without hesitation. I didn't hear the call, but sometimes I sincerely wish I had. I think I would have been a vastly different man if I had. Whether that would have been desirable or not is a moot question, but it still haunts me sometimes, late at night.
Either way, thank you, you grey-haired veterans, you baby-faced grunts, you packs of bloodthirsty life takers and heart breakers, and thank you to you peacetime soldiers too. Your sacrifice is no less important for never firing a weapon in anger. Thank you for your sacrifice. I hope I can live up to what you've earned for me.