Friday, November 11, 2011
Lest We Forget
I woke up this morning with the intention of writing up and sharing the last of my Hilton Head restaurant reviews. I got only as far as the title when I realized that I would be remiss if I let today pass without making at least some mention of Veterans Day.
When I was a child in England, we observed Armistice Day on November 11th, pinning paper poppies to the lapels of our school uniforms in a tradition that harked back to the end of WWI, and the very first Armistice Day on November 11th, 1918. I remember watching news coverage of the Remembrance Day ceremonies, as veterans of that 'war to end all wars,' now frail and old, but still living, honored their fallen comrades and received honor themselves. In a country still so conscious of the ravages of that war, the history of this day felt almost palpable.
As a teen, I visited the battlefields of WWI in France and Belgium, making pilgrimages to the Menin Gate (a memorial to the soldiers of the British Commonwealth) at Ypres, the still-preserved trenches at Vimy Ridge, and the Douaumont Ossuary at Verdun. I was impressed by the stillness of these places, and the reverence with which they had been cared for and preserved through the years.
These early encounters gave me an appreciation for the value of military service, and fostered an understanding of the importance of remembering, so it shouldn't be so surprising that, a few years later, I was putting on a uniform myself. I don't talk much about my military background on this blog, mostly because this is a food and travel blog and I don't consider my experiences to be particularly relevant. But occasionally, on days like today, they intersect.
The wars of today may look nothing like the First World War, but the importance of remembering has not diminished since that first Armistice Day almost a century ago. In fact, the case for observance grows more important with each passing year. The wars we fight today have no possibility of sobering battlefield visits, and daily casualty numbers and graphic news footage have inured us, somewhat, to the horrors of war. Without remembrance, there is the very real possibility that war and sacrifice will become nothing more than background noise in our ever-busy lives.
So today is an important day, not only for those of us who have lost friends, colleagues and loved ones, but also for those of us who are tempted to forget the individual and sometimes personal price of freedom, and for our children, who are just beginning to understand the meaning of sacrifice. If you know someone who has served or is serving in the military, take the time to thank them today and make it personal - their service certainly is!