Yes, normally we talk football around these parts, especially Texans football (as painful as that has been as of late). Yet there are times when football can (and should) take a back seat. Today, that is the case. A couple of quick thoughts on an important day.
101 years ago today, the nations of the world came together to remember the anniversary of the end of what had been, to that point, the most destructive war in human history (World War I). Death tolls vary from 10 to 50 million, depending on what you consider war casualties. 100 years ago today, England held its first ceremony honoring the Unknown Soldier. The United States would follow suit nearly a year later, with then-President Warren G. Harding becoming the first of many Presidents that paid their respects to the Unknown Soldier. While the US already had a day to honor the military dead (Memorial Day), the nation eventually modified Armistice Day in 1938 to make it Veterans’ Day, a time to honor those who served and lived. Since that time, the US maintains two days on the calendar to honor military service. While November 11th in America is meant to honor the living, both Memorial and Veterans Day honor the living and the dead who took the oath to serve in the Armed Forces.
As we take time to honor those who fought under the US flag, this past year has also offered us a chance to reconsider what it is to fight for God and country. In 2020, the US faced threats across a myriad of fronts, and the most critical of those battles did not involve fights between fielded forces. The adversaries could not be cowed with a devastating air attack or the threat of nuclear weapons. The main defenders were not the Army, Navy, Marines. or Air Force (although they did provide support in their own ways). Instead, the main fighters were, and still are, the doctors, nurses, and healthcare personnel countering the most devastating pandemic in over a century.
The US is no stranger to pandemics, but it had not faced a threat like this since it was trying to mobilize for World War I. With COVID-19, the front lines were no longer “Over There” but right here, in the front and back yards, inside the house. Our vast military resources, the largest in the world, could not thwart or deter this threat. It fell to the healthcare workers, first responders, and those individuals who work in that very unglamorous, but so incredibly vital, logistics trail to keep the stores stocked, the mail flowing, and the basics of survival available to all. The fight is ongoing, and it is relentless. They are doing all that they can and then some. Perhaps they do not have official rank, but you can’t tell me that they haven’t put everything on the line to protect lives and this country.
The casualty figures for healthcare personnel, first responders, and those in the society logistics trail dwarf the casualty figures for the US military in 2020 by a wide margin. For those who are not registered casualties/statistics, the burdens and stress they face are as rough a PTSD as what any soldier will face in combat. All have their part to play. All are important to lifeblood of this country.
While this day is deservedly for those who took the oath to defend the nation, let us not forget that there are many outside the military who have put themselves on the line for us, especially this year. A key failing of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 is that much of those experiences were lost to history, that the true impact of that disease and the ceaseless efforts of those charged with containing the virus/protecting the population never got their due. The day should come when there will be a holiday to honor those who were on the front lines of this pandemic. Until then, as a grateful American, I say thanks to all fellow vets, and especially to those of you fighting the fights that 2020 continues to throw at us, from natural disasters to a world-altering pandemic. You may or may not wear an official government uniform, but you are fighting for this nation and us all the same.