Veterans Day: What It Is, How to Celebrate

Veterans Day 2011: Honor and Respect

Veterans Day 2011: Honor and Respect

Thank you, veterans, for your willingness to pay the price of freedom.

I think of the line from the Roman poet Horace, “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” This can be roughly translated as: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” (Translation of this and the lines below by John Conington; quoted in Wikepedia.) While this may may seem an out-of-date sentiment, the reality of the ancient Roman soldier probably differs but little from the experience of soldiers on the ground anywhere in the the world. It’s not easy.

“To suffer hardness with good cheer,
In sternest school of warfare bred,
Our youth should learn; let steed and spear
Make him one day the Parthian’s dread;
Cold skies, keen perils, brace his life.
Methinks I see from rampired town
Some battling tyrant’s matron wife,
Some maiden, look in terror down,-
“Ah, my dear lord, untrain’d in war!
O tempt not the infuriate mood
Of that fell lion I see! from far
He plunges through a tide of blood!”
What joy, for fatherland to die!
Death’s darts e’en flying feet o’ertake,
Nor spare a recreant chivalry,
A back that cowers, or loins that quake.”

Taken from Odes (III.2.13) by the Roman lyric poet Horace.

It’s not easy for the families of veterans, who wait and watch for their return, and who struggle to keep up with everything at home. For them, I think of John Milton’s great poem “On His Blindness,” and especially the last line:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Families of veterans, I thank each of you too. You share in the burden of service, and we are grateful.

For homeschooling families, Beverly Hernandez offers a bit of history plus some activities and resources on her Celebrate Veterans Day page. You’ll also find good quotes on liberty and freedom at my entrepreneurial blog, Do What Matters, Make it Pay. These work well for copywork or dictation, or simply as essay or discussion starters. Enjoy!

If you’d like to listen to or learn the patriotic music of the various branches of the armed forces, Eastern Illinois University has compiled an outstanding page that contains music and lyrics for the songs of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines.

The video below offers an overview of some of the volunteer activities you can do with or for veterans, and you’ll find more at the Office for Veterans Affairs page. If you know a veteran or have one in your family, the best place to start might just be with a hug and a “Thank you, I love you.” Many restaurants and businesses offer discounts or freebies to vets (here’s one list from Daily Finance)– perhaps you can Google for more and treat your veteran to something special.

From Eric K. Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs:

“On the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 2011, we will pause to honor America’s Veterans and celebrate their contributions to our way of life. Few have given more to our Nation than the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces in peace and in war.

Generation after generation-from Bunker Hill and Bennington to Baghdad and Abbottabad-protected, defended, and preserved the principles and ideals that define our democracy. Across that remarkable sweep of history, today’s America was shaped at Lexington and Concord, Antietam and Gettysburg, in the skies over Midway, on the beaches of Normandy, in winter’s grip at Chosin Reservoir, in the heat of Ia Drang Valley, from the Persian Gulf into Afghanistan and Iraq by those who wore our Nation’s uniforms. Over twenty-two million living Veterans today embody our exceptional character and values as a people-each a line in our Nation’s history, but together many chapters towards today’s future.”

This post is in loving memory of my father, a WWII veteran.

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