As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. — Joseph Campbell
Today, as many of us know, is Veterans Day, the 92nd time this federal holiday has been observed since instituted as an Armistice Day on this date in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. While many of us probably know a few veterans in our lives, who among us takes the time to really ponder what it means to be a vet?
I am very proud to say that many of my closest friends are veterans who have served in every branch of the United States Armed Forces. Some, like my father, completed two-year stints of requisite service, while others have served five years, 10 years, or more. Some served during a time of war, others during peace, and, as we cannot be reminded enough times: All gave some and some gave all.
How often have we walked past the Bill Brown Square on Jerome Avenue without pausing for a second to consider the ultimate sacrifice made on October 8, 1918 by its namesake, World War I soldier William A. Brown, on the battlefield in France? The young resident of 1818 Voorhies Avenue, who served with honor and courage with Wagon Company G of the 108th Ammunition Train, 28th Army Division, never had the luxury of being able to call himself a veteran. He was never able to resume his life, settle down, raise a family, see the Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series in 1955, or drink a beer with his buddies at a local VFW or American Legion hall.
Unlike celebrities such as Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino, and Lindsey Lohan, who are adulated by society for their “good looks” and trashy behavior, and are paid obscene amounts of money for the sole purpose of compelling our misguided youth to aspire to superficiality and materialism, members of our Armed Forces are paid between $17,000 and $35,000, per year, depending upon their rank, and yet… these are the brave heroes without whom our country would cease to exist… without whom “The Republic for Which it Stands” might otherwise be “The Nation For Which We Mourn.”
Whether by conscription, or by a strong sense of loyalty to the Stars and Stripes, our veterans have put their lives on hold to do battle with formidable foes in scary and hostile lands. Men and women who had previously led peaceful civilian lives as farmers, teachers, accountants, and students, et cetera, entered into unfamiliar terrain, whereupon they were shot at, kidnapped, detained as POWs, and many watched their best friends get blown up from roadside bombs or bleed to death from enemy fire.
Many return from the ravages of war carrying these painful memories inside them for all time. Many, tragically, take matters into their own hands. And many, like our own Bill Brown of 1818 Voorhies Avenue, do not return at all.
Whether in the mess hall, or on the battlefield — for their selfless defense of their country…our country…spare a kind thought today, and every day, for our veterans, for they deserve no less than the bottomless depth of our eternal gratitude.
It is the very least we could do for them, for all they have done for us.