How can we say thank you? A meaningful thank you, one that can stand the scrutiny of truth and balance? To you who have sacrificed so much.
How can we thank someone who stood – or stands – in the face of complete uncertainty and possible death? For what? An idea? A way of life? A possible future plucked from the multitude of possible futures that lie unrequited? You may have questioned, but you served. You may have doubted, but you fought with all your strength.
To those of the greatest generation, how can we accurately acknowledge your accomplishments? Where did it spring from, the stoicism, the selflessness, the capacity to perform miraculous feats of courage, industry and honor? To dream of a better world and make it happen? To know loss and continue on? You reached for greatness.
How can I find words commensurate with your deeds? And your love?
I once asked my father, “Why?” “How?” He seldom talked of the war. He said, “Look in a mirror.” I barely had an inkling, then. I still don’t fully understand, I suppose. I saw myself in the mirror, and I saw him – I, a diminished reflection of his stature.
I know I can never measure his equal or fully repay my debts, not only to him but to all who have fought for ideals much greater than themselves. It occurs to me, now, as I write this that maybe repayment isn’t expected. Gifts, given freely, are just that … gifts.
I have worked in public power for more than a quarter of a century. Really just a blink in the over-arcing scheme of things, but time enough to learn, perhaps, a thing or two. It strikes me that line workers and soldiers must share somewhat the same thought process, the same mettle.
A line technician can face any kind of weather and danger, and still he or she serves. If there is a thank you at the end of a job, that’s fine. But it’s not expected.
I do not believe my father and others like him would expect thanks.
He would tell me: “I’d be happy if people could be a little more kind to each other. Less greedy. Not as opinionated or so sure the other guy is wrong. Let go of hate easier. Although I can’t speak for all veterans, I think what I fought for at its most basic was optimism. That the world could be a better place. That we could be better people. That we could cherish life and be less angry.”
Then he would wrap me in his strong, strong arms that once had the might and tenderness to encompass a whole world, and he’d whisper: “Of course, a thank you can’t hurt.”
To my father and all veterans on this special day – and I hope for every day for the rest of my life – knowing full well the limitations to the words, I say, “Thank you. Thank you. And, I’ll try.”