However brief and lacking, the request was made so I will attempt to deliver what Veterans Day means to me.
To me this is one of those “that depends” answers but is rooted much deeper, like the sailor/survivor of a treacherous sea voyage being asked what they think of the ocean, and receiving an immediate reply of, “which drop / which day?” I know that the question was posed on the broad brush, on the desire to honor the marketed support of this sacred day. Just know that when asked, like many veterans, I am flooded with many emotions, memories, thoughts, and wonderment of lives and opportunity that might have been, in appreciation for more sacrifice and service that I can ever hope to describe and never will.
I guess I can begin by saying that I always felt it appropriate that Veterans Day fell almost exactly between Election Day and Thanksgiving, as if immediately following the actionable use of our most basic right for peaceful revolution, and immediately before our time of thankful reflection, we are to turn our attention to honor those who have served, the ones that ensure both those days remain a possibility. Like many veterans, more than some, and far less than others, I had the honor, privilege, and distinction of serving in Iraq on two occasions; one tour early on in the Operation, one tour very late. I saw firsthand the creation of the bubble of security and livelihood that we call Freedom, how it began, how it was nearly lost, how it grew, and how big it was when we let it go and left it there alone, afraid it would burst but trusting it would continue to be more than we ever knew it to be.
Yes Sir, it was amazing to see land that was being fought over one year, which I fought for, becoming a gathering place of livelihood several years later. Yes Ma’am, freedom isn’t free! To me veterans are the farmers and parents of freedom, we guard it, nurture it, and pass it on to our civilian leaders trusting that the adolescent freedom we have born is led, taught, and cultivated into a responsible system that benefits the many. To me Veterans Day is a sacred pride, a reaching out and thanking those I served alongside, a silent witnessing of other veterans I never knew, wondering what their pain and story was, thanking them none the less; it is the memory of what real service, sacrifice, and leadership means.
Someone once told me that to serve is to willingly set yourself ablaze for the benefit of others. Perhaps these brief ramblings, one veteran’s ramblings, spoke to you; perhaps they didn’t, whichever way I hope that on this hallowed Veterans Day you are able to find a veteran and say, “thank you.”
And because this was initiated by way of our great Mason & Hanger marketing group, I’d like to do my own bit of marketing (if they will allow), as I think it is appropriate. One of my soldiers, at the time, I his platoon leader, he my second squad gunner, has written what many have called the first great American novel to come out of the Iraq War. The book is called “The Yellow Birds,” a novel by Kevin Powers. I encourage you each to read it and tell your friends about it. It is a veteran’s perspective, and a good one. Happy Veterans Day, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
T. Brett Prillaman
US ARMY (Inactive)
Operation Iraqi Freedom