Today is Veterans Day and aside from enjoying a random mid-week day off from school when I was a kid, I can't truly recall any other celebration or commemoration of this day. Here in the Tri-State area, apparently Veterans Day means a day off from school AND a parade in the City. Good to know. Unfortunately, for most of us, not going to work or school means that any significance of the day is obliterated by the mundane details of our lives or a great White Sale at Macy's.
While Veterans Day began its life as Armistice Day when World War I ended and switched over to Veterans Day subsequent to WWII in the States. Everyone else in Europe stuck with the original and if Wikipedia is to be trusted, they celebrate it in much the same way we do - lots of official ceremonies and general pomp in honor of military fallen.
Meaning absolutely no disrespect to our honored veterans, but how is this different from Memorial Day? Memorial Day has been around since the end of the Civil War and all too many of us commemorate it in a similarly superficial fashion.
If we really want to honor veterans and make them special, maybe they should be the only ones to get Veterans Day off from work! I mean, really post office, bank and municipal government workers - you just got Columbus Day off and Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. Unless you held an M16 on the beaches of Normandy or the deserts of Fallujah - Get your ass back to work!
Of course, I'm also unclear as how we judge who qualifies as a veteran and therefore worthy of our adoration and respect. Friends of mine who have recently returned from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan get my vote. As do my rabbi who currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and all those National Guard members who helped everyone from victims of Katrina to racial line walkers in Little Rock.
But what about someone like my dad? He joined the Guard and trained to be a medic to avoid going to Vietnam. I never heard a single story of demanding basic training officers or heroic feats. Hell, he might have had it easier than Bill Murray in Stripes! Does he count as a veteran? What about ROTC members?
Lest anyone get offended, I absolutely admire the dedication, sacrifice and courage displayed by our men and women in the nations' armed forces. At times, I wish I could feel that sense of patriotism and belief in America's rightness enough to consider getting a paper cut in her defense, let alone dying.
So before you head out to buy that new percale sheet set or snooze a little longer because you don't have to work in the morning, take a minute to thank our veterans and be glad that because they still care - we don't have to.