Pro patria mori

Yesterday was Veterans’ Day, and as my Facebook newsfeed filled up with thanks to veterans and tributes to family members in uniform, I thought about my own friends and family who have served.

My grandfather fought in World War II. He didn’t like to talk about it.

My father, who turned 18 in 1960, did not serve in Vietnam, but had friends who did. He didn’t like to talk about it.

My cousin, who served in the first gulf war, has got…some issues. We don’t really talk about it.

I could go on.

I am deeply thankful to all the men and women who have served this country, who have fought to keep us safe and who have sacrificed their lives, bodies and minds.

But even as I am thankful, I feel that we must do better.

We must do better to support all those who have served and we must do better to minimize the numbers who need to serve in the future.

I believe that we can do both. We can love our military brothers and sisters and work to protect them just as they work to protect us.

Honestly, I don’t know whether or not war can ever solve anything, but I do know that war is never glorious. It’s never pretty. It’s ugly. And tough. And if indeed we need good men and women to make the sacrifice of military service, the least we can do is recognize that it is, deeply, a sacrifice.

And we can do better.

So on Veterans’ Day, I am thankful. I am grateful. But also I am thoughtful. And I remember the words of Wilfred Owen:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

(Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori is Latin, meaning, “it is sweet and right to die for your country”)

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