There was a box of photos at the top of a bookshelf that for many years I could not reach. Like many curious kids, I loved finding old photos and most particularly photos of my parents.
One day boldness got the better of me and I was able to climb high enough to reach the old cardboard box.
The box marked 'Vietnam' in my father's handwriting contained pictures I couldn't quite make sense of then. The much younger Dad in the pictures looked like a boy playing soldier to me. The murky haze of violence or the grim horror of war was out of those images. In those still frames young men posed for a moment, grinning or in some cases looking wide-eyed or playful.
It wasn't until I was a teenager that I began to understand the gravity of the faded images that filled that box and the part of my father's past he had such a hard time putting into words for me. It was with time that I began to understand why he had such a difficult time answering my questions about that time and about himself and those other young men in the photos. It would be a while before I realized what 'shrapnel' was and how after years it could still set off an airport alarm when my Dad walked through security.
It sickens me to think that there was a time in our nation that people ever turned vitriol or even apathy against those men who served. For the most part, we as a nation learned our lesson, but we've always got to remind ourselves that our veterans need and deserve our thanks.
The emotional scars (much like the physical) are part of the sacrifice that our veterans carry with them for life. When we speak of sacrifice, this is much of what that word really embodies.
The times when my Dad's hand goes to his heart at a baseball game I can know for sure that the chords of the anthem being sung are touching him quite differently then many others who hear it. It is these times I am in awe of my Dad. Sure, he's Dad and now even Grandpa, but he is a veteran.
I remember all he endured and all he sacrificed every day, but especially today.
Honoring you today, Dad on Veterans Day.