What Veterans Day means to me
By James Elphick
This year will mark the thirteenth time I have celebrated Veterans day as a veteran. A great deal has changed since but one thing has remained constant – what Veterans day means to me as a veteran.
Due to the nature of my deployments I was considered a combat veteran at just 18 years old but I was still in the Army and not officially a veteran in the civilian world. Those first few Veterans Days were important as my friends and I collaboratively established what the day meant to us. It became many things – first and foremost at the time it was a day off from work which was much appreciated – but we all seemed to reach the same conclusions.
Veterans day was a day to celebrate that we were alive, that we had survived the war up to that point. But it was also a time of contemplation as for many of us there were still deployments looming. That contemplation has continued through the years, especially for me. Every Veterans Day I reflect on the sacrifices of my brothers and sisters in arms and I wonder about the future. I long for a day when we are no longer creating new combat veterans but live in a world of peace and those of us who fought this war can grow old and let the memories fade a little.
The celebration of being alive to enjoy Veterans Day has also always been tempered by the loss of our comrades. Even though there is a separate holiday in Memorial Day to recognize them it is impossible to truly separate the two. No thought toward my own service can happen without also acknowledging those that we lost.
Finally, and this one may have been the most difficult, Veterans Day is the time to let the country thank us. Many of us shrug off the obligatory “thank you for your service” that we hear whenever it becomes known that we are a veteran but for many people it is important to say those words. Because for us we are veterans everyday it is important to be able to step back and let the country celebrate its veterans, even if it makes us uncomfortable.