Dad, Jim, Mike, and UJ all served in the military and I thank them for their service. Dad and Jim were in battle and both were wounded, Dad in Italy during World War II and Jim in Vietnam. Mother also paid an enormous sacrifice in World War II.
During World War II a surreal 50 million people were killed worldwide, including over 400,000 Americans. To put that in perspective, today when you watch a football game consider that a typical stadium will hold around 50,000 people. If you filled the stadium and killed every person in it, then filled it again and killed every person in it you would have killed 100,000 people. So, you would have to fill a stadium and kill every person in it 8 times to equal just the number of Americans killed during World War II. Are you ready for this? You you would have to fill that stadium and kill every person in it 1,000 times to equal the number of people killed during World War II. It’s mind boggling. Those figures don’t even include the number of people who were wounded.
As for Vietnam, an entire stadium of young Americans, 58,200 were killed in Vietnam. In those stadiums you will see the POW/MIA flag, which represents the Prisoners of War and Missing n Action. Those 58,200 Americans, most of whom were killed before the age of 24, missed the action of life. They missed getting married, having kids, watching their kids play sports, graduate from high school and college, they missed cookouts and holiday celebrations, birthdays and growing old. They were robbed of life and all of the action and joy it brings. Today and on Memorial Day we think of them and of those who served and we thank them for their service and sacrifice.
When I was at Xavier University a professor asked us to write about 3 events in our lives that were really important. I was older and I mentioned the Vietnam War and when I discussed it a bit I was taken aback at the conversation from younger students who didn’t even know what decade the war was fought in. They said that it typically came up at the end of the year and teachers either didn’t cover it and it fell off the end of the table, so to speak, or it was covered very briefly. I thought about Jim’s service and the men and women were killed in Vietnam and I felt that if we didn’t teach about the war then they would have died in vain. I made a vow to make sure every student who came through my class would learn about the war in Vietnam and all wars and their sacrifice would be honored. In my first year of teaching I gave my students an assignment to “Hug a Veteran” and then write a reflective piece about the experience. I told the kids to find a veteran, likely a family member, and just hug him or her and say “Thank you for your service.” They then had to write a reflective journal of any length they needed describing what happened, the veteran’s reaction, and how they felt. All these years later, I still remember a journal from a young girl named Katie in perhaps third grade who said she told her mom she had to take to her to see her grandpa so she could give him a hug for homework. Her mother drove Katie to her grandfather and the girl reported she hugged her grandpa and said, “thank you for serving.” In her journal, Katie reported that her grandpa was taken aback and surprised and started to cry. Katie and he were deeply moved and she wrote a powerful journal saying her grandpa said no one ever cared before. Something magical and powerful happened between Katie and her grandpa that day, something that was more than just a moment of gratitude. She learned to care and from that she cared to learn more about his experiences.
About a month ago in Pakistan a young girl was shot and nearly killed because she dared to express free speech and say that women should have the right to an education. Think about that. She was shot and nearly killed for daring to say that girls should have a right to an education. In this country we take those rights and privileges grounded in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and laws for granted : free speech, the pursuit of happiness, an equal education for all. In Pakistan and other countries they need their brave men and women to fight and die, just as our veterans did and continue to do, so that others might live in freedom some day. Maybe some day a little girl in school in Pakistan will hug a veteran and thank him for his service, and if and when that happens I am sure it will be an emotional and transformative moment in their lives.
Veterans Day is not just a ceremonial day, it’s important. Thank you Dad, Jim, Mike, UJ and all of our veterans for your service.
God blessed America with our veterans!