November 11 is Veteran’s Day. It is duly noted, along with all the other holidays of the year, in pale grey letters on my calendar—it’s easy to miss, and even easier since there are no presents involved. No traditional meal to prepare. No greeting cards to mail with the sheepish inscription, “Hey! I know this is late, but…”
But I never rest well when I sail past Veteran’s Day without proper regard for it. It just doesn’t set well. There’s something that niggles at my brain, my emotions. And I have my brother, Keifor, to thank for that.
Several years ago he decided to make a difference in the lives of his 4 sons (pre-Davis, as I recall) with regard to Veteran’s Day. I saw a picture later that my mother took of them all standing near the flag on their front porch that day, with Keifor reading something to the boys. It was the text of a verse from America, The Beautiful , and he had prepared a graphic of those words superimposed against an image of the flag. Several days before, he had mailed copies of that, bearing a personal note, to each name on a list of men, family members and friends, who are counted in that (more-often-than-not) forgotten group—our Veterans. I could only imagine what it must have meant to them.
I resolved then that if we do not teach our children to remember, no one else will. Keifor was, and still is, a busy man. He could have done even less to commemorate that day and still have made a lasting impression on the men. On the boys. The important thing was that he didn’t let the day go by without remembering—and teaching his sons to remember.
In the years following his good example, I have tried to “go thou and do likewise.” One year I wrote a letter expressing our gratefulness, and sent a copy to every veteran we personally know, from WW2 through Vietnam, on behalf of our family. Another year, our whole family assembled and sang verses one and three of America, the Beautiful to every veteran we could reach by phone.
Last year, I was teaching at our homeschool co-op on Veteran’s Day. I couldn’t do something big last year, but I rehearsed my class of 3rd-6th graders, and we placed a cell phone call to my Uncle Harry, veteran of World War 2, a naval hero who served on the submarine USS Haddo. After a spritely, but slightly comical solo of Anchors Aweigh by yours truly, the class sang America, the Beautiful to Uncle Harry. I told him, in front of the children, that I had spent Geography class telling them his story. I told him that I want them to know, and I want them not to forget. I told him of the impact his life has had on my thinking, and on my choices, all my life, and that I would be forever grateful that he never ran; that he was willing to put himself on the line for us. I told him that he was one of my main heroes. It was one of the too few times in my life I have followed through on a good intention. It was a very special moment for both of us.
Exactly two weeks later, unexpectedly, Uncle Harry’s earthly warfare ended. He gave a final salute to his family who had gathered around a hospital bed, and closed his eyes in death. When I got the news, I realized I’d been given a special and final opportunity to say thank you, and this time I hadn’t dropped the ball.
I know this is a long post, and someone else’s personal remembrances aren’t always high on the list of interesting reading, but if anyone has stuck with me this far, please understand two things: I don’t credit myself with these performances of gratitude. I credit my brother, Keifor.
Is there someone you know who has served? Something you can do to bless someone else who has made sacrifices in the past for you? Our children aren’t born knowing or caring about this heritage, but they will be richer human beings if we will teach them to honor and show appreciation for what others have contributed to their lives. Consider this challenge: Do something. Even something that may seem small to you. If it is from your heart, I promise you it will swell the heart of a veteran.
And secondly, the real point of my message is this: May God have mercy on us if we do not remember to show gratitude. Yes, our lives should be permeated with it. But on Veteran’s Day, please remember especially the courage and the sacrifice of those who have done—and are even now doing—their duty. On our behalf. To forget is to gradually be eaten alive with selfishness.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget — lest we forget!
~ Rudyard Kipling