Friday, November 8, 2013

Veteran's Day Letter

We had a bunch of snow days last year, and as a result, we missed some school days.  To compensate this year, Stratford, CT, cut down on the number of the holidays the kids have--which is fine, but one of the holidays that they cut was Veteran's Day.  Hence the need for the following letter.

To Whom It May Concern:
My children, Hannah and Emma, will not be in school on Monday, November 11th, because it is Veteran’s Day.  
It is little remembered these days, but Veteran’s Day actually began as Armistice Day, the holiday to celebrate the end of the Great War, later known as World War I.  World War I was arguably the most horrific and pointless war in human history, and its failed peace led--at least indirectly--to the Second World War and to many of the international boundary-related problems that humanity still faces today.  World War I also set the conditions for the Russian Revolution, which in turn led--again indirectly--to the Cold War.  These are the kinds of historical realities that I think my kids need to spend a day thinking about, and indeed, I suspect that this is at least a part of why the federal government declared the day a national holiday.
Moreover, service is important in our family.  Our tradition of service goes all the way back to the American Revolution.  I served with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.  My wife Sally served with the Peace Corps in the hinterlands of Paraguay.  My father was a career Marine infantry officer who served in Vietnam.  My grandfathers served in World War II.  My great-grandfather drove an ambulance during the Great War.  One of my great-great-great grandfathers is even depicted on the Cyclorama in Atlanta, fighting from the saddle with a saber in one hand and the reins of his horse tied around the stump of his other arm.  For better or worse, this is the legacy that my children were born into.  It is the legacy that they will have to uphold.
And yet, for as much as I am proud of mine and my wife’s service, it is a tithe of what my friends and West Point classmates from have given.  Most folks don’t know it, but even before September 11th, the U.S. Army was stretched thin.  Compared to its commitments, the Army has never been large, and even in the good old days, we still had troops deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Korea, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.  Since 9/11, however, things have become extreme.  My classmates have all done at least two tours overseas, and most have done three or even four.  That is an unimaginably demanding degree of service, and it is utterly unprecedented in our nation’s history.  On Memorial Day, my classmates were all very serious about the day honoring our Fallen.  That’s fine.  On Veteran’s Day, however, I intend to celebrate the living, who have given so much more than I think even they realize.
So.  This is why my kids will not be in school on Monday.  Please excuse their absence.
Dan Head

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