For the rest of my life, my birth date would become carved into my heart as the same date that was carved into my father’s headstone.
Right around Veteran’s Day that year, as my black pumps sank into the soft lawn of the cemetery, several members of my father’s veteran’s group lined up to help honor the friend who had succumbed on another dreaded battlefield called cancer.
The guns swung into place. At the salute, they fired.
But these were not the highly polished, dead-on shots of rigorously drilled soldiers who fire as one. These were shakier, rustier shots that wavered just enough to make it clear in that split-second: it was individuals who were firing that day.
These men were not sleek young men who hadn’t yet lived. The guns had fired from arms that had lived over seventy years each, arms grown weary from age and toil and worry. These arms knew what it was to cradle the newly dead…and the newly born. These arms had fought for their country and for their lives, and so far, had won both.
Some men were bald, some were round. Some had arms that were driftwood thin. But all stood as tall as their tired backs would let them.
These men were not soldiers. They were so much more. They were soldiers, workers, sons, and brothers. They were friends, husbands, fathers, men. Real men who know that life itself is a series of battles that we win by struggling for and protecting what it is we hold dear.
Thank you all for fighting for what matters. Thank you, Daddy, for having been a father who matters…to many. To me.
I salute you. All of you. Happy Veteran’s Day.