A sense of exhilaration filled the air at the annual Veteran’s Day Parade my family attended this past Tuesday. The theme, Heroes at Home, marked a change in focus from previous years, as many of our soldiers are once again on domestic soil. Families were reunited, and the phrase, “Bless you for your service” was repeated over and over again.
Another kind of transformation happened for me. I stood, awed, as units of military personnel paraded by, placards of their division and where they served carried by volunteers at the front of the squadron. Uniformed combat warriors drove down the boulevard in military vehicles, their artillery aimed at the sky, their guns silent.
And that’s when my imagination took over. As a fiction writer, I am often caught in a scene where the main character faces a challenge and I provide the details. I decide whether they escape their circumstances or defeat them. I decide if they win or lose.
But here before my eyes were men and women who had fought in actual combat, using live ammunition, driving vehicles often targeted by the enemy for destruction. In my mind’s eye, I could hear the noise of the rockets exploding, could see the soldiers taking cover, could feel the rumble of a thousand tanks advancing. The outcome was in God’s hands.
This was no movie script written in a Hollywood office, no tempting trailer made to encourage attendance. These people faced life and death circumstances—their training and commitment to duty deciding the outcome of each conflict. These warriors made the decision to summon their courage, serve their country, and preserve our freedom. And they did it for nameless faces like my family and myself, people who often take for granted the privileges we enjoy as a result of the efforts of our armed forces. Because of the dedication of soldiers, we can choose the direction of our day, venture out of our houses without fear, even attend a parade.
Saying thank you really isn’t enough. But I do say it, “God bless you for your service.”