Friday, November 11, 2005

A Working Holiday

In the broadest strokes, today is like any other day for me. I woke up at my usual time, went through my usual morning routines and now I'm at work. Here in western New York, the weather is typical November; wet, raw and cold. It seems like any other Friday.

Except that it's not.

The other evening I was talking to my wife about what it's like having gone to West Point. Every graduate from the academy, famous or not, is a part of our country's history in a very intimate way. Just naming a few of the more famous graduates is a visceral reminder of that fact. Schwarzkopf, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Pershing, Grant... Military historians and West Pointers even have a phrase to describe not only that list of names stretching back into history but also that feeling of connectedness with that list. "The Long Gray Line."

In the same way, those of us who've served this country in uniform are part of a distinguished group that stretches from the first, rag-tag regiments that comprised the Continental Army to today's professional soldiers. If you have ever read any first-person account of war you have a small idea of what it must have been like to be in battle. If you've ever served, especially during wartime, you know up-close and personal the awful mix of excitement and fear and that point when training and repetition overcome them both.

Because of those strong links to history, today is not like any other day. It would certainly be nice if the country would honor us vets with a day off, if more companies would make an effort to recognize the contributions we've made in some small way. But also because of that history of personal sacrifice that not everyone is willing to make you won't find many veterans who will complain about the seeming short shrift given our contributions. And because the government doesn't make today a "major holiday," and because the workplace treats us all as just another "human resource," even today, most non-veterans don't give it another thought.

But if you happen upon this post today, I hope you'll read it in the way it is meant; a gentle reminder of what today means. Of what the people today is meant to honor have done for this country. I hope it also reminds you that the sacrifices veterans have made for all of us were predicated on one grand idea, an idea - an ideal - in every public servant's oath of office, but which has special meaning to a soldier. Remember this idea when someone talks of "supporting the soldiers" when you know that they mean something entirely different.

Soldiers have one duty above all:

"To support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic."

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