It’s 9 p.m. on November 11th, Veterans Day, 2020. I am working my way through “Band of Brothers” again. I think it’s the third or fourth time I have watched it since I first saw it many years ago.
Every time I watch it, I get a sadness that mixes in with the awe of these heroic men who helped save the world. Their sacrifice is so hard to comprehend.
Every year, we take two days to honor them. One to honor those who died, and one to honor those who served.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we are capable of honestly and completely honoring them.
Why is that? First, I think it is hard to honor someone for something you cannot comprehend. Even though many of us have relatives who served in World War II and other American wars, we have been isolated and insulated from what they really had to go through to protect freedom. We haven’t had to make one sacrifice in our daily lives that even comes close to what they gave up. And the further the generations get from direct contact with those that served, the least able they are to understand.
Many of these men and women volunteered to serve. Some were drafted. In either case, they left their homes, their jobs, and their families to serve in the harsh conditions of war. They faced death, of themselves, of their friends. They saw horrors some of us cannot fathom. And it wasn’t in movie effects or a video game. It was real. And, through all this, they did what they had to do without expecting thanks or reward.
Meanwhile, what do we have here in our society? Outside police, first responders, and those who give up their safety for the well being of others, most of our society is made up of selfish, entitled, people who think that sacrifice is when your internet is down or your boss at work asks you to do something you don’t want to do. Their bravery is defined by an anonymous Facebook or Twitter post threatening death to an elected official they don’t like with the only possible consequence is being banned or having to delete the post.
They are never really tested like our fathers and grandfathers were. They never have to look to others to save their lives and never have to save other’s lives. They live in a cocoon of extra lives, of insulated walls, of safe spaces. No one challenges them physically or mentally, to be more than they think they are, to break free from the cocoon.
And so, for them, heroes are movie characters, athletes, or recording artists. Not because these icons deserve their adoration, but because they are told over and over how these should be their heroes.
Add to this their woeful and inaccurate knowledge of history and their indoctrination by the people who want to destroy this country, and you have generations that cannot possible honor these men and women as they should be honored.
We have failed these heroes, even though they would tell you, if they could, that they don’t want the accolades.
For me, however, it isn’t really for these heroes that we need to honor them. It’s for the generations now and for those to come. If they don’t understand the sacrifice, they will never be able to defend and live in a free country. And they will be taken advantage of.