On this Veterans Day, on the Main Streets of small towns across our country, banners honoring currently serving military men and women continue to fly from flag-decked lamp posts. Typically, these hometown hero banners wave from May to November. In the charming Eerie Canal village of Spencerport, New York, they had been newly installed when we visited family over Memorial Day. As the leaves fell, the weather cooled and the time changed, I wondered if the banners were still in place. My sister-in-law Julie told me that they were indeed there along Union Street, and she sent some pictures.
Spring and summer have come and gone. Fall has all but made its exit. In upstate New York, as Thanksgiving approaches, a gray icy chill descends. Snow, and lots of it, is likely on the way. And still the soldiers gaze down on the streets of the towns they call home. They’re mostly young. They wear their dress uniforms. What’s in their expressions? Hope, apprehension, dread, determination, courage, trepidation, resolve, regret?
Here in Northern Virginia, Kiko and I spent some time in a small cemetery near our home on this unseasonably warm Veterans’ Day. The customary sounds of a suburban autumn–the leaf-blowing, tree-trimming, power-washing, and traffic–they’d fallen silent for a while. Kiko surprised me by not insisting on trying to venture out into the street beyond. Instead, he settled on a hill. Beside him, flags decorated several graves, as did one little pumpkin. Except for the occasional rustling of a falling leaf, the stillness around us was deep and comforting, like a blanket.
Veterans Day here in America evolved from Britain’s Armistice Day, first observed on November 11, 1919, to commemorate the cessation of fighting in World War I, which had occurred a year to the day before. It has come to be known as Remembrance Day in Britain. President Eisenhower changed the name of the US holiday to Veterans Day in 1954, designating it as a time to honor all our military men and women, including those who fought in World War II and Korea.
Veterans Day serves as a reminder of the very human cost of war. May we be resolute in our honor of those who have served and now serve in every branch of our military. May we remember that, as the seasons change, our soldiers yet remain far from home, in remote and inhospitable locales, often perceived as the enemy even when their mission is dubbed a peacekeeping one. Many hometown heroes banners are likely to be removed soon to make way for Christmas and holiday decorations. Let us not forget the ongoing sacrifice when those bright young faces no longer look down on us from Main Street flagpoles. And may we use the power of our vote to demand that we reflect on the past and learn from mistakes. May we elect representatives who seek to comprehend, and when possible, avoid, the truly inestimable cost of war.
For my Memorial Day post from Spencerport, see here.