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Happy Veteran’s Day!

A former Teammate wished Elizabeth and me a Happy Veteran’s Day and thanked me for my service yesterday. As I read his text aloud, I could hear his voice and picture his face. I noticed the swell of joy and overtone of nostalgia remembering our brief time together. This made me think of other Teammates across decades and continents. As I remember Teammates both living and gone I want to share the same wish—Happy Veteran’s Day to you and yours.

As I consider Veteran’s Day, I think of those who have gone beside me and before me as well those who shall follow. I remember seeing the Great War Veterans march, as they could, along the boulevard where I spent most of my youth. There were only a handful. WWII and Korea Vets were there en masse. Vietnam still raged on the nightly news. Much of my playtime was fighting in the jungles of the Pacific, the sands of North Africa or the ancient stone towns of Europe with rifle, bayonet and helmet. Fighting for freedom.

Veteran’s Day grew out of Armistice Day as the War to End All Wars did not and our nation saw the need to recognize Veterans regardless of the war or wars in which they fought. We chose this day to recognize service at the sacrifice level for an idea—an oath to the Constitution, a pact with our society. Curious that we choose Armistice Day. Victory in Europe and Victory in Japan Days would come later and rightly allow us all to celebrate Freedom across the globe at the tremendous cost of blood, treasure and hardship. Yet, Armistice Day brought no victory. The celebration was for a cessation of war. Perhaps some thought that the absence of war would bring peace but as we see today this is clearly not the case. Yet we still celebrate the end of fighting.

We all join for a variety of reasons—for some a mixture of ideals, service, a need to escape, a chance to prove manliness and mettle. Our journey forever linked with those that have gone before. Our youthful desire to count coup, to face a powerful foe, to seize safety for our kin, to free the oppressed, to feel alive and powerful drives much of our commitment to comrades closer than brothers. On this day we celebrate our Teammates, we celebrate each other.

During the course of our service we likely trained with others in a foreign land and helped them fight for their own nation and freedom. We crossed language and culture barriers for shared ideas. We joined with the underdog, the farmer, the teacher, the doctor, and laborer to throw off the tyranny of oppression. We have taught, trained and fought with people we would never know had we not shared an idea strong enough to compel us to join, to serve, to fight. On this day we celebrate our comrades in arms, we celebrate each other.

In a world of violence, standing for what is right often results in broken lives. Perhaps a rip or tear in our own life, an unintended gouge to our families or the eventual shredding of our closest relationships. The singular responsibility for this weight can crush a person. Perhaps we bear a similar weight as we see daily the face of our enemy slain. The cost will always be too much for just one person to bear. We must share that weight. Share the burden in community. Be there with one another. On this day we remember the cost, we celebrate each other.

Most of you know that my last day in uniform was D-Day one year ago. In these last eighteen months, my journey still runs along the path of mission first, Soldiers always. In my own need to win, to secure a free and stable future for my nation, I remember several imperatives. Humans are more important than hardware and consider the long-term effects.

As you continue your journey, remember that the darkness will leave only when we are brave enough to shine a light on it and see it, to face it, to integrate that which hides in the dark with our lives.

~ De Oppresso Liber

Regimental Crest of the Special Forces.  The upthrust dagger and crossed arrows remind us of Special Forces heritage while the motto, "De Oppresso Liber" [to free the oppressed] clearly states our collective intention

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