This is my friend Allen (on the right).
The picture was taken a few years ago when I went to a party at his local American Legion in Wisconsin. As you might guess, he fought in The Big One*.
An open letter to Allen, cc: all U.S. military, past and present, alive or dead:
There are a few days every year when most Americans get out their flags and wave them, and make a show of patriotism. I have always felt it a bit odd to only show your colors a handful of times a year. When in Wisconsin I never fail to fly the flag every morning, and to take it down, as I should, at dusk or when it rains. In my old apartment in Chicago, on a busy stretch of Lincoln Ave., I displayed a flag year round in my front window — it filled the window like a curtain (facing out). I wear a small flag pin on the lapel of my jacket.
These symbolic displays are not enough.
I say “Thank You” to soldiers and veterans when given the opportunity. A drop in the bucket, but not enough.
I buy a poppy.
I speak out, on this website and in person, in defense of our country, in defense of justice, and of truth, and in defense of the individual freedoms for which you and your comrades fought.
I cringe when I hear of another solder’s death, and say a silent “thank you” that they are over there doing what they must. I cringe when Americans crow over these deaths, and use them as a bludgeon to attack our country’s honor, and its intentions. Do they not realize that their words inspire our enemies and hurt our own? Do they not realize that our soldiers are fighting to prevent “over there” from becoming “right here”?
I strain to find the words to express the depth of my appreciation for the sacrifices made by our soldiers in the past, and being made now by the best of our generation. Every freedom I have ever known was won with the blood of patriots.
So I say “thank you”, and hope that those hearing it recognize the passion behind the words. Thank you; and thank you again.
Oh, and one more thing. One more small drop in the bucket.
Allen, I will make a donation in your name to any non-political veterans’ or soldiers’ support organization of your choice. Let me know your preference.
To anyone else reading this, especially those who never served directly, I challenge you to do the same. This isn’t a “who gives the most” pissing contest, this is a Call to Action.
Give to the VFW and support those who fought in the past. Give to Soldiers’ Angels and support those who are fighting today. There are many such organizations around, and they could all use our support.
And to our veterans: Thank You.
Update: My wife points out… if you can’t donate money, donate some kind words at www.americasupportsyou.mil.
Update Nov. 29, 2005: The party was at the American Legion, not the VFW. I’ve corrected the text above.
* That is, World War II.