The Islanders, for a variety of reasons, are one of the more proactive NHL teams when it comes to recognizing military service. So this seemed appropriate here.
Veterans' Day. Remembrance Day. Armistice Day. By any name, from any political or philosophical stance, people unite to honor military service members and vets in part because everyone can at least agree that we, as a species, put these people in perhaps the toughest position you can ask of a human life.
Nothing crystallizes the often absurd nature of that position for me more than the story of Armistice Day, the famed "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" in 1918, a moment chosen ahead of time in part for its numerical impact -- at the cost of how many extra lives? Western "leaders" (and I use that term loosely) agreed to end the war at that hour, yet on that day there were still, by one account, 10,944 casualties; 2,738 died (320 Americans), most after the Armistice had been signed.
Have a Story?
This is not intended to be political nor sanctimonious (I save sanctimony for my shootout rants, don'tcha know), but I know we have some veterans around here -- and just about everyone has a vet or service person in their life. So if you'd like, treat this as a way of showing a different side of yourself. (Obviously you might prefer to keep your participation specific to hockey, and that's cool.) But if you want to say a word (or 900) about yourself or any service person, in any uniform, who's meant something to you, take it away in comments. I'll start, after the jump:
* I never met my grandfather. He was one of the first Czech officers executed by the Nazis in 1939. His body was sent back in a coffin that was bolted shut, and his family was told he committed suicide -- and they were instructed not to tell anyone any different. (In reality, post-war accounts confirmed he was tortured extensively, then killed.) The impact of that death on my father was pretty indescribable, something we never could quite pin down. Suffice to say my dad looked up to his father, and losing him then, in that way ... well there were psychological consequences.
* Later in that war, my (American) uncle landed in Europe shortly after D-Day. He literally "marched across France" -- and that is all he ever revealed to us about the experience. We always wanted him to share more stories; we probably had no idea what we were asking, and we probably shouldn't have asked twice.
* On the other front, another American uncle was on a ship being deployed to the Pacific "theater" when The Bomb was dropped on Japan, ending the war. He was spared from combat, and he -- ever the comedian -- told me the biggest lesson he learned was not to take the bottom bunk, because when your bunkmate got seasick ... well, gravity always wins.
You could go for hours about war, armed forces, the requirements for a "just war," the proper context in which to honor those who serve. For me, the point of days like Veterans' Day is to recognize those put in that position by the collective conflict resolution flaws of the human species. There is no telling how my life would be different (or whether it would exist at all) without their involvement. So when this day comes around, the above are the people I think of most.