Have you thanked a solider today? On this Veterans' Day, I will take a brief detour to reflect on where we are. (Well, given that I’ve just started this blog, you wouldn’t know, yet, where this is all headed. The path will become clearer in days to come.) I’ll spare you the full-blown trite observations about how our military is full of heroes who put their lives on the line every day for our freedom. That’s all true. But what we all overlook is the utter ordinariness of our soldiers, and how we could learn a thing or two from them.
Last week, my good friend invited me to attend the Marine Corps Birthday Ball to celebrate the 231st anniversary of the Marines. I was one of a handful of civilians among the 2000 or so uniformed servicemen and spouses who attended the festivities in New Orleans. This year the Commandant (highest ranking officer of the Marines) headlined the event in New Orleans, an evident nod to the special meaning of celebration in New Orleans, which had to cancel the event last year in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. No doubt, the party was full of spectacular pomp and circumstance. Set that part aside, however, and you are left with a bunch of co-workers who were happy to let loose and celebrate tradition and a job well done (and, unfortunately, to honor their lost comrades – a job hazard with which most of us are unfamiliar). There were no parades and waves of congratulation; it was more like a giant office party. I suspect most all the Marines there would tell you that they are not heroes, but they’re simply doing a job. The really amazing part is that they seem to see nothing extraordinary about giving so much of themselves to people they don’t know. We are not all cut out to go to war, but we could all take a lesson in this great legacy of sacrifice. There are plenty of people in our own communities who could use a helping hand. If only it was part of everyone’s sense of basic honor and duty to extend that hand without expecting a pat on the back and being called a hero. It is that, which should be so ordinary, which deserves our celebration. I think our soldiers get that, and for that we should be thankful.