Monday, November 11, 2013

I vow to thee my country ...

Veterans Day is an oddity, somewhat ambiguous, intended in the United States to honor all who have served, with emphasis on the living. 

We have Memorial Day to remember the dead, after all, providing there's time during a festive three-day weekend that for many is more a passage to summer than an opportunity for solemn reflection on honor and sacrifice.

The path is clearer and the focus sharper in Commonwealth nations, where Remembrance Day, also Nov. 11, also originally Armistice Day, honors the dead and the poppy of Flanders Field is a universal symbol.

Living veterans can be darned inconvenient to deal with sometimes. What does one say, after all?

Not that the gestures aren't nice.

I could, for example, go to Hy-Vee this morning for a free breakfast. Golly.

Grocery customers will be invited through the 16th to round up their bills to the nearest dollar --- change going to three programs that benefit veterans and their families.

A benefit supper is planned this evening at  Carpenters Hall to benefit Carl L. Caviness American Legion Post No. 102.

And there's a nice display at Midwest Heritage Bank featuring, among other items, a few from the military collection at the Lucas County Historical Society. 

There's a slight edge of uncertainty to all of these gestures, however. Although Veterans Day is a federal holiday, its observance is discretionary elsewhere. So most offices and institutions, schools and businesses, must decide for themselves if it's appropriate to close for the day, or continue with business as usual.

Frankly, I've never met a veteran who much cared --- although it is interesting that the overwhelming majority of those who benefit from free time on Veterans Day have never served.

So here's an idea: Give all veterans in the workforce a paid day off on Nov. 11. Everybody else --- just keep working.

Other useful things to do as the years grind on:

Keep an eye on the state Legislature. The Iowa Veterans Home at Marshalltown and other state veteran service programs are tempting targets when budgets are being trimmed.

Keep an eye on Congress. The Veterans Administration healthcare system needs to be fully funded, as do other veteran benefit programs. 

Above all, practice peace. That's the ultimate tribute, and vow, to all who have served, living and dead.

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