First off, my apologies for being absent for so long, I never wanted to take this much time off from something I love and care about, but real life sometimes gets in the way. Expect things in the future, and Wartenx, I got you bro, I’ll talk with you this weekend. On to the post.
Today is Veterans’ Day here in America; it’s a day in which all US citizens take the time to remember the military veterans who have served the United States. There used to be importance for this day, but I still see people working and going about their daily lives. Several of my students didn’t know what the day was intended for. It’s sad to think that a day rooted in the ideals and beliefs of our country could be met with such ignorance, even such disdain.
World of Warcraft has the Harvest Festival, celebrated very briefly for a week in late September, and the idea behind it is just the same: remember the fallen. In that week, players can honor the spirits of soldiers past who wander the gates outside their major city, either Orgrimmar or Ironforge, for their respective faction. There is also a brief quest, in which the Horde honors Grom Hellscream in Ashenvale and the Alliance honors Uther the Lightbringer in Western Plaguelands, placing an offering at either’s monument. I recall a year or two ago when a few of my friends had done the quest, but complained severely that there wasn’t an achievement.
IRL or in Azeroth, our soldiers serve, but tend to be forgotten or unappreciated.
Growing up, my Uncle Terry has always been a close relative and a father figure. He reminds me of Bo Duke, with his southern drawl and charm. I used to watch John Wayne movies in the den with him and the rest of the family. His son and daughter have been my surrogate brother and sister since diapers (I’m an only child). I always knew my uncle had served, though I was never privy to what extent and under what circumstances. He was a marine assigned to a particular battleship during Vietnam, and as far as any of us were concerned, he had a good ol’ time just smoking and drinking, and then he came home. It wasn’t until I started working with veterans at an assisted living facility a couple years ago that I understood.
Uncle Terry and my aunt came down that summer, wanting to see what we were up to. He came by the ALF to see me work, not realizing there were veterans. He started making conversation, quietly at first, asking tiny questions. “What was your rank?” “Army? Navy?” “Did you know this guy in this platoon?” At first, I didn’t think anything of it, just military guys talking military. A few times Uncle Terry had to go out and smoke, which usually never took more than three minutes, but while he was at the ALF with me, he took fifteen minute breaks. I would check on him and see a few of his Marlboro butts by his feet. The end of the day, he got to talking with the VA benefits rep, and came to find they both had served as marines during the same tour, just stationed down the river from each other in Vietnam. As they were talking, I found that, in retrospect, it was the hardest conversation I have ever stood witness to.
My Uncle Terry sleeps an average of five hours every night, and has done so ever since I’ve known him. I never knew it was because his company was under fire, and the sound of bullets in the brush kept him up at night. I didn’t know he heard things, conversations down the hall or his name being called out by voices that don’t exist anymore. He avoided certain smells, scents that triggered memories that would excuse him from dinner tables and get-togethers so he could go into another room to collect himself. I never knew he would catch himself staring off into the distance, forgetting his task at hand. I had no idea he served three tours, one of which so his brother wouldn’t have to.
When the day was over and we went home, I talked with my uncle; I told him that I loved him, but I also told him thank you.
Whether you know it or not, hell, whether you care or you don’t, you have your liberties because of our soldiers. The ideals, beliefs, and intentions behind war are moot, for on this day we honor the selfless and the heroes. The reasons do not matter, only the action. If you observe Veterans’ Day, Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day in your respective country and you happen upon a former soldier, tell them thank you. You don’t have to believe in a damn thing or advocate why we fight, but be gracious to those who have fought for you and for all of us.
To anyone who has served or is serving in the military, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am by no means a patriot, nor do I believe in everything my government does, but because of you, I love my country. Thank you.