A flag-draped coffin symbolizes the sacrifices of the military veteran in our society.
It is an image of steadfastness and community orientation of those people who have chosen — or in many cases bowed — to the wishes our government to offer up their service, lives and limbs for us all.
The accompanying editorial cartoon that ran in last week’s papers tells a more specific story. That story is one that all too-often occurs when our society forgets about the importance of a veteran’s sacrifice.
This social negligence has implication for our future– and we shouldn’t forget about that for our societal good – but it also shortchanges the individual who has given so much. The part that history shows us that we too often forget is the debt we owe veterans.
For me the appearance of this editorial cartoon at the time it did helped tell the story of specific veterans lost in combat in Afghanistan and in the whirlpool of inaction that resulted from the government shutdown.
These veteran who gave all to country – and their families who lost also – had to wait for the veteran to make the final trip home. The proper procedure and funding was not in place to make it happen.
The bag that sits at the foot of the coffin, seemingly asks the veteran to give just a bit more; although he has no more to give. The point to me is that we have failed these particular veterans in providing the one thing that they ultimately should not be denied, our respect and honor
Surviving service people and their families continue giving to us. That is their nature and is part of the definition of what they do.
We pay them salaries, meagerly in most cases, and promise care going forward should they be injured doing our bidding. We can not forget this last piece — the care we owe them after their service — but we often do.
In reality, if history is any guide, those who have survived will continue to serve because of the people they have become through their military service.
For me, my father’s flag-draped coffin was a symbol of an aspect of his Greatest Generation that I little considered, their ideal of community and society.
My father was a World War II veteran who saw little violence in that conflict but offered himself for whatever the Navy and his president asked him to do. There are many like him, willing to give up everything. When the war ended, he was on his way for a beach landing in Japan.
He was glad to be relieved of that duty and glad for the ability to move on. Millions of veterans of his generation did move on to serve their communities, families and country. Doubtless they did so from a perspective of their service before.
Our current-day veterans seem to have a similar perspective of service. We take courage of that for our future.
In so doing we need to remember what we owe them as a society.
This is a perfect time as Veterans Day approaches to remember and keep remembering past Veterans Day.