I am a child of the 70's. My father was a very Republican, "my country right or wrong" guy in the middle of the Vietnam War and Watergate. I was a stubborn, opinionated, "what the hell did Nixon think he could get away with?" high-school student who would have gladly wrapped himself in the Constitution the way some folks did with the flag. I had no use for the war, the "military industrial complex" or most of the US Government at the time. And for one summer, I protested the war, the military, and almost every damn thing I could. If there was something to be against, I was against it.
My confession was that I was stupid enough to lump the servicemen and women of the armed forces in with their leadership, in my head and in my heart. I generally despised what I believed was the mindless mentality of the armed forces, and their involvement in what I believed was a stupid war.
That was wrong. Period.
Now my other confession is this: I don't think any more of the war in Iraq than I did of Vietnam. But my amends is that I'm not about to debate that, today. Because Veteran's Day, and Remembrance Day, is not about national policy, or politics, or posturing or photo ops or sound bites.
It's about the men and the women of the armed forces. Committed, brave, talented men and women who believe enough in what they are doing to live, and breathe, and fight...and suffer, and die...in the service of their country.
It is to remember the sacrifice of soldiers who served, and fought, and lost limbs, and died in the service of their country. And to remember, support and encourage all the families and friends, who struggle with their loved ones' woundings or who mourn their deaths. That's who we remember, and that's who we honor, on this day.
It is a tradition in Canada and Australia to remember veterans who have served with two minutes of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (originally, when the World War I armistice was signed). I like that idea a lot. I think it's a tradition that is overdue in the US as well. And that brings me to Terry Kelly and "A Pittance of Time."
A year ago, I heard Kelly's story:
On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly was in a Shoppers Drug Mart store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the store's PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.I'd urge you to take a couple minutes to go to Terry's site and watch the video. I don't mind admitting that I've seen this video a dozen times - and it still brings tears to my eyes. (Then click on the link that says, "Click here to view a clip from the concert production" - some great insights on a play produced around the theme of Kelly's music.)
Terry was impressed with the store's leadership role in adopting the Canadian Legion's "two minutes of silence" initiative. He felt that the store's contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.
When eleven o'clock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the "two minutes of silence" to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.
Terry's anger towards the father for trying to engage the store's clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was channeled into a beautiful piece of work called, "A Pittance of Time." Terry later recorded "A Pittance of Time" and included it on his full-length music CD, "The Power of the Dream."
And on this Veterans Day, I leave you with the words of Abraham Lincoln, whom I hope spoke for us all....
... that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.