The next two days are days in which we all should express a great big, much-deserved thank you to a large group of too often overlooked and underappreciated people: our military veterans of all branches of service, in particular one branch on the anniversary of its inception.
Tomorrow (Friday, November 10) is the anniversary of the birth of the United States Marine Corps. According to the Marine Corps' website, the corps was founded on this date in 1775 to be an elite fighting force capable of fighting both on land and at sea. Later in their history, they added air combat to their repertoire.
Although involved in America's earlier wars, the Marines really came into their own during World War II in the Pacific theater, fighting island to island against the Japanese. The names of those islands--Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and many others--became symbolic of the bravery and determination of the members of the Corps. And that courage never flagged during their difficult battles in Korea and Vietnam. And they have been in the thick of numerous "brushfire wars" ever since. And they are still at the forefront, as they have always been, of the ongoing War on Terror.
The Marine Corps has a special place in my own heart. I have several friends and former colleagues, such as artist Dave Schuppert, who were Marines. (Perhaps I should say "who are Marines," for they say "Once a Marine, always a Marine.") Also, two of my nephews are Marines. One, Captain Justin Peterson, was killed in Iraq during that war. But we honor him and others who gave their lives on Memorial Day, not on either the Marines' birthday or Veterans Day.
Then, on Saturday, November 11, we celebrate Veterans Day, a time for honoring all who served in any of the branches of the armed forces of the United States.
Men like my 96-year-old father-in-law, Charles Dietterich, who served aboard the U.S.S. St. Paul during World War II. He says (tongue in cheek, I suspect) that he didn't like the Marines, although many of them served aboard ship with him. There was just a certain rivalry between seamen and Marines that only they could understand. And men like my distant relative Anthony Masters, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Others are currently serving, too, but we honor them on Armed Forces Day. It's important that we keep the purposes for each of these holidays distinct in our minds and honor the people on their respective days.
My wife and I will be attending a special Veterans Day ceremony honoring such veterans at a local public school on Friday. Another former colleague and the artist who drew the illustrations for one of my books and the covers for two of them, Preston Gravely, will be there, too--playing the bagpipes and leading the veterans' march into the auditorium. He is himself a two-fold veteran, having served in both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army, in the latter of which he served as a chaplain. Similar ceremonies and parades will be conducted all across the nation, as they should be.
It's good and right that we should celebrate such days and the men and women for whom they were instituted--lest we forget. And how quickly we forget these days! We may bicker and quarrel and disagree among ourselves about our national policies, but we should never fail to honor those who are pledged to defend us and the U.S. Constitution with their very lives.