Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. November 11th was chosen as Veteran's Day because that was the date that the armistice ending the First World War was signed. (The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 - you've undoubtedly heard that before.)
The recognition of veterans has not always in vogue. The Civil War and the two world wars generated great enthusiasm for those returning from war - and much in the way of praise and tributes to those left behind buried in foreign soil. The Vietnam War, sadly, did not stir much in the way of respect for veterans. Many Americans felt the war had been a political blunder, and some transferred their anger directly on to the troops and veterans of that long and bloody conflict.
The following poem, "Dead Letter Day," by Marc Levy tells of a letter informing a wife of the death of her military husband - in the Vietnam War - and of her response. The Vietnam War was not the nation's high water mark by any measure, but the people who fought there endured some awful circumstances in what they had been told was noble sacrifice, and those who died there are just as dead as deceased veterans from any of our wars.
The people on the ground fighting wars, regardless of whose uniform they wear, believe they are putting their lives on the line for some benefit to humanity. They are noble. The ignoble are their leaders and the politicians who benefit from the wars they start and feed with the sons of daughters of the poor - sometimes simply out of greed.
Our nation's veterans deserve our respect - regardless of the real reasons their wars were fought.
Dead Letter Day
by Marc Levy
He sent the letter to the guy's wife
The same day,
Leaving out the following:
"About 2 in the morning the automatic went off
And nobody moved, we just waited for the morning
Light and the order to recon.
There were two of them. One was dead.
The other hung on all night,
Waiting to blow away some round-eyes
Before he bought it too.
He shot the second man, missing the point.
The point opened up and somebody threw a frag
And it was all over. Except that your husband
Took a bullet through his helmet that tore a
Gash in his head, and going down shot the man
In front of him. The blood was deep, dark red;
He was lying flat on his back, in shock;
His eyes were wide open and lifeless,
As if he could see everything.
They say he lived a few days in the rear,
Even got up and spoke. Then died.
Head wounds are like that."
She wrote back. First thanking him and the platoon
For writing her, then going on for pages asking
About his last moments. You could tell she was crying;
And he cried too, and did not reply to the desperate
Letter, and has desperately not replied ever since.