Twice a year I go through this bitter-sweet reality that I’m outliving those around me, those that actually meant something to me and those who actually did something for our country. I watch people running around, having BBQs, watching the games on TV, and those who really take a moment to reflect on what Veterans Day is all about.
We have Memorial Day for those who have passed on. But Veterans Day should always be a time to remember those who came back, and a time to honor those who served our country and to reinforce the need to honor all who wear and have worn our nation’s military uniform.
I was talking to some recent veterans of the middle-east conflict. It became apparent to me that what they have just gone through is worlds away from the wars I remember. People tend to forget that we’ve been in the middle-east for 40-plus years. The countries are still the same, the cities and towns names are still the same, Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, and Bahgram, but time has made them different.
The only difference is that 40 years ago, we were helping throw out the Russians. (Of course, technically, we weren’t there.) Here in the U.S., people just didn’t know or didn’t care because it didn’t affect them directly. But Americans still served and died in that service to America. We also had military organizations comprised of the best military minds that money could buy. They just didn’t wear uniforms of any particular government. They did things that a military force couldn’t do, and they are still doing it, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi and one hundred other countries.
And until this decade, no one really knew who they were, or what they were doing as they put their lives on the line alongside our military. And for once, the news media isn’t there, in the way, creating a political aversion to our actually helping the countries out. Some people want to know why we’re still there and we’re not winning. They don’t understand geopolitics. But we are still out there in so many countries, doing things that nobody talks about, taking care of business, all in the best interests of our nation, and our armed forces do it with pride and honor.
But back here, I look around me at all the homeless veterans we have living in our parks. I look around me at all the petty politics that are nothing more than self-aggrandizements. I look around me and can only shake my head in awe and sorrow. This is Sunland-Tujunga. It used to be a community. It used to be cohesive. Some of the old-timers still talk about when the “bikers” were here and crime was almost nothing. Funny thing though, those bikers were mostly veterans from the Vietnam War. And for the most part, they kept our community together. This new community that we have here now is one without integrity or honor. Maybe it’s because we don’t have veterans running it.
And maybe it’s because we don’t have people who respect those ordinary citizens, the men and women who made the sacrifices, those who served when their country called. So for one day, November 11, this is their day, let’s not forget them like we do all the rest of the year.
And those real veterans don’t drink The Water!