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“Experience the world as a Happy Accident.” – Kenn Dodson

Veterans Day and travel

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I’m not a veteran. Neither was my father. Yet over the years I’ve developed a genuine and deep respect for those who made decisions to serve in the military. Because of these individuals my family, and our nation, has known a unique form of freedom that is a rarity in our world. It’s one that invites the individual to express their creativity without reprisal, to voice alternative thoughts, and to dissent in times when the opinion of the majority may tend to overshadow all else.

In remembrance of this Veteran’s Day, I recently finished a book about The Great War — the “one” that would surely end all wars due to its unprecedented reach and violence. But, in reality, just seeded an even bloodier one just two short decades later. In the book, historian Joseph Loconte details the experiences of authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as they fought on behalf of Great Britain in the trenches of Europe. While I’ve never known war in such intimacy, the words used to express their fears, hesitations, and numbed reactions to the events swirling around them have given me some understanding.

A veteran’s sacrifice

From World War II and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, many of my extended family did serve, most often in the U.S. Army. I remember stories of my grandmother’s brothers who served in the second world war. They fought so hard through western Europe, deep into Nazi Germany, but somehow made it home safe. Another relative served in Vietnam. He made it home safely too—but suffered afterwards from the accidental exposure to Agent Orange he received while out on patrol one night. He passed away at a young age just a few years after returning. His name was just recently added to the Vietnam Memorial. His surviving family are so very thankful for that reminder of his sacrifice.

For others who have and continue to serve in peace time, the sacrifice is also real. Separation from spouses and children, financial pressures, and the many daily stresses that we all endure—but amplified by their unique environment.

How Veterans continue to serve

I never really knew many veterans in my life. Well, at least I thought I didn’t. But the truth was they were all around me. And now I know many. Some served in war, others in peace. But they all served with dedication and the intent to preserve the unique freedoms that make our nation the leading beacon, by far, of immigrants from around the world seeking a better quality of life for themselves and their families. That’s why we, as a nation and as individuals, must deliver the respect and opportunities to our veterans that they’ve earned through their sacrifices.

A moment of remembrance . . .

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year 1918 The Great War came to an end. Tolkien and Lewis returned home and each, through their writings, used their individual experiences to remind us of the nature of sacrifice. Unfortunately, The Great War didn’t end all wars as everyone hoped. But it did give birth to Veteran’s Day, gifting future generations with a mirror to reflect upon what individual sacrifice truly means in their lives. We must never sugarcoat it or let it fade into just another day. Their experiences, their sacrifices were real. As are the freedoms we cherish.

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