How Veterans Day Came to Life for Me

ralph-ignatowski

The story of my wife’s great uncle – Ralph Ignatowski – gave me a renewed appreciation for our veterans. If you’ve seen the movie Flags of our Fathers, you caught a glimpse of “Iggy’s” story. If you read the book, then you know more details about the gruesome things he endured before his young life ended at Iwo Jima.

I’m told he was actually too young to enter the service, but the desire to serve his country took over and he lied his way into the Marines. He wasn’t alone. I’ve heard that many young men did the same in those days for the chance to fight for the United States of America.

The sacrifice of so many men and women has come even closer to home for me recently. My brother-in-law, a captain in the Army, is almost finished with his second tour in Iraq and should be home just in time for Christmas. A great Christmas present, indeed.

His wife and two young kids came to visit us for the weekend a few months ago. His daughter Isabelle and my oldest daughter Madelyn were going to sleep in the same bed. Of course, there was a bit too much talking going on and not enough sleeping, so I went upstairs to settle them down. Isabelle asked me to lay with them and I told her that they didn’t need me to lay with them because they were big girls.

That’s when she broke my heart.

“I miss my daddy.”

I almost cried. At that point, she hadn’t seen him in about a year. It reminded me of the reality that military families face and the incredible sacrifices they willingly take on for the rest of us. I take for granted much too often the comfort of my own life. And, embarrassingly, I don’t regularly stop and appreciate what these brave men and women have done for me and my family.

I hope we embrace Veterans Day while looking for opportunities to thank our veterans. But I hope we don’t stop there. I hope it drives us to remember them each day and look for ways to show our appreciation year round.

All our lives have been touched in some way by our military servicemen and servicewomen. What comes to your mind on Veterans Day? Whose story is front and center for you?

*Image from Wikipedia.

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7 responses to “How Veterans Day Came to Life for Me

  1. I am among the 15 percent of Americans that have served in the military. Thank you for reminding all of us why we should care.

  2. Thank you, David.

    My father flew over 50 missions in WWII, and my husband is a retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. who served in the first Persian Gulf War and went to Iraq as an advisor in the current conflict there. I honor them for their service.

    @BarbChamberlain

  3. I think about how after WWII, when my mother was going blind from starvation in post-war Germany, my grandfather, who had been a P.O.W. of the Americans, wrote an American soldier for help . . . the soldier and his family sent care packages of food from the States and that is why my mom survived. I love the U.S. for fighting for freedom and justice and showing compassion to their enemies. What a great country.

  4. We have a similar annual public “day” in Australia that remembers our war heroes called ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day. People in every major town get involved in a march with the ex-servicemen to honour those who served in ALL wars. They were thinking of scrapping it a few years ago but with the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it gained public support with participant numbers increasing every year. I think anytime we – as a planet – stop and remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, it makes us more human.

  5. Let freedom ring!

  6. That’s a moving post, David. In Canada, we call November 11 Remembrance Day – and I want to remember my late dad, who fought on the front lines during WWII. He was responsible for his squadron’s communications (the Radar O’Reilly of his group). And he was one of the lucky ones – he was never wounded and came home alive. This year, one of my ‘uncles’ reminded me of a story. My Dad and his Blackwatch buddies were beseiged by the enemy; and incurred terrible casualties. My dad was trying to radio for help when his CO turned to him and said, ‘We’re done for it, Waxy.’ I can’t imagine what it would feel like to hear those words from the person in whom you’ve placed all your trust. And I can’t inagine the elation of coming through it alive.

  7. A little late but I liked your post. My husband and I are the 7% (thats the best estimate of how many people have actually served in the military) who have/are serving in the military. We live with British military personnel who celebrate Rememberance Day with the Poppy Appeal- I wish we’d do that in the U.S. it’s a great visual reminder of what the day means.

    We dont want to be stopped and told how great we’re doing- as long as you know it in your heart and demonstrate in your actions (voting and volunteerism) then that’s all we could hope for.

    He’s Army, I’m Air Force

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